Improved anti-doping measures and the globalisation of cycling are just two of the improvements that Pat McQuaid claims took place during his presidency of the UCI. Responding to widespread criticism of his tenure, he claims that his side of the story has long been underrepresented because ‘it doesn’t sell books’.
Speaking to the Irish Times, McQuaid said that the findings of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report, in which he featured heavily, reflected more on his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen. “The report, in fairness, does cover much more of my predecessor, which is when Lance Armstrong was racing. And the report does state, in several places, that things changed since 2006, and that was under my presidency.”
According to McQuaid, an improvement in drugs testing was among the most significant of those changes.
“In relation to anti-doping, I did want to move on, and I did move on. And the facts show that I did move on. I took over an anti-doping budget of around €300,000-€400,000 a year, in 2005. By 2008 that had gone up to €3 million a year.
“In 2005, the statistics show UCI did about 42 out-of-competition tests. By 2012, during my period, it went up to 7,500. In-competition tests went from something like 4,000 a year to 8,000 a year. So the landscape changed completely once I took over as UCI president, in terms of anti-doping.”
He also points to the greater globalisation of the sport as being another of his achievements.
“There are black African riders currently riding in the World Tour who are there purely as a result of the effort I put in to raise the profile of the sport in Africa. Races like the Tour of Beijing, which I started to globalise the sport.
“I brought BMX into the Olympic programme, which is now a big success, because it’s a huge entry activity for young kids coming into the sport of cycling, and brings them into the other disciplines as well. I brought Paralympics cycling into the UCI family. So there are a lot of things I’m proud of, and I will always love this sport.”
So why is he the subject of so much criticism? McQuaid believes that he could have put himself across better. “Communication was always a problem for me. UCI is like a government, and if I’d spent more money on communications, like the current regime are doing, I probably would have had an easier time.”
He has harsh words for critics such as David Millar and Tyler Hamilton and argues that as they were banned from the sport, their perception might be unfair. “Those guys were about trying to gain notoriety, to sell books. They’re thinking of themselves, not about the sport.”
Similarly, he says that Paul Kimmage and David Walsh never came to the UCI ‘to see what we were doing’ with regards to doping, and again argues that the two writers were primarily driven by selling books and newspapers.
In fact, so confident is McQuaid in his performance as UCI president, he even has some advice for those running other sports.
“Our policy has always been to test, test, test, catch guys if you can, and throw them out of the sport, and move on from there. That has always been my policy. Other sports should consider maybe improving their own situations.”