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Allegations of bribery and cover-ups at very highest levels of cycling

UCI president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen are alleged to have been involved in corruption and attempted concealment of doping according to a document leaked to the website Velonews yesterday. In a statement issued late last night, McQuaid said “The claims ... are a complete fabrication. They are totally untrue and are not supported by a scintilla of evidence.”

The three-page document is claimed to be a summary of a 54-page report with 26 supporting documents circulated at a UCI management committee meeting held in Bergen, Norway, in June by US delegate Mike Plant.

The original report was commissioned by Russian cycling president Igor Makarov, according to an interview Plant gave to cyclingnews.com. With a net worth of almost $2 billion Makarov is believed to be the richest man in cycling. He appears to have had the UCI in his sights since his Katusha team was refused a WorldTour licence in December 2012. The team appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and gained its licence in February 2013.

The summary was written by someone who claims to have seen the full report and who “has knowledge of the individuals described” in the report.

It continues: “The release of this summary was not directed by anyone who commissioned or owns  The Report. The individual providing this information has been told that the reason the entire  Report as not been made publicly available, is because it has been turned over to law  enforcement authorities for follow·up.”

The summary’s key allegations are:

  • That in 2012 Verbruggen and McQuaid solicited “what amounted to a bribe of 250,000 euros from a named procyling team owner”.
  • When riders from another pro team tried to involve the UCI in a dispute over non-payment of salaries, the “UCI instead became involved in a corrupt relationship with the team owners and allowed the illegal non·payment of salaries to continue”.
  • When Alberto Contador failed a doping test in 2010, the “UCI tried to engage in a cover-up of the failed test in exchange for money”.
  • McQuaid set aside anti-doping rules governing eligibility of riders in order that Lance Armstrong could make a comeback at the 2009 Tour Down Under. In exchange, Armstrong agreed to ride the Tour of Ireland for free, benefiting McQuaid “because his relatives or friends were involved in directing the Tour of Ireland”.
  • Lance Armstrong’s personal lawyers wrote and edited sections of Emile Vrijman’s 2006 report into allegations that Armstrong’s 1999 urine samples showed evidence of doping.

In his statement rejecting the allegations, McQuaid said:

“The claims in this so-called dossier are a complete fabrication. They are totally untrue and are not supported by a scintilla of evidence.

“This is a scurrilous and libellous attack on my character, with a political agenda that is both nakedly transparent and totally contemptible - and unfortunately one that is completely in character with the tactics of my opponents.

“The UCI Ethics Commission have already tried to investigate the matter. The Ethics Commission asked for a copy of the dossier from Igor Makarov and Mike Plant, but both of them refused to hand it over to the Ethics Commission. That fact alone speaks volumes.”

In June, some of the report’s allegations were discussed at the UCI Management Committee meeting in Bergen, Norway, despite McQuaid attempting to block it.

At the time, his rival for the UCI presidential election later this month, British Cycling’s Brian Cookson, described the contents as “disturbing.”

The summary claims: “Mr. McQuaid said he was going to bring the allegations to the UCl's Ethics Commission for investigation.”

The summary also claims that the report has affected the previously close relationship between McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen, now an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. “After Mr. McQuaid read The Report in Corsica, France, he communicated with Mr. Verbruggen about the contents of The Report. ... Mr. Verbruggen then contacted several of the witnesses in The Report in an  apparent effort to distance himself from Mr. McQuaid.”

Pat McQuaid is standing for reelection as UCI president on September 27. He is opposed by British Cycling president Brian Cookson who is supported by Igor Makarov.

Cookson responds

Brian Cookson has issued a statement that confirms these allegations are similar to those contained in the report previously seen by the UCI management committee. 

Cookson said: “These allegations, which appear to be similar to those made to the UCI Management Committee in June, are clearly very serious.  For the good of the UCI and cycling, they should be immediately and thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities. I hope that this matter can be fully resolved before the UCI congress on 27 September.

“For my part, I remain totally committed to a democratic election under the Constitution of the UCI and will continue to talk and listen to national federations and voting delegates on how, together, we can grow cycling globally and restore faith and trust in our sport."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.