International Cycling Union votes for new president

Duel shapes up between confident Cookson and incumbent McQuaid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 2:44am


Months of shadowy politicking, allegations of corruption and the use of secret dossiers will come to an end Friday when the International Cycling Union (UCI) holds its presidential election.

Barely a year after disgraced American Lance Armstrong was banned for life for doping, cycling is about to elect a leader it hopes can pump fresh life into the sport.

Yet what has become a duel between Irish incumbent Pat McQuaid and British Cycling president Brian Cookson has taken almost as many twists and turns as the storied career of the disgraced American champion.

Cookson, who has overseen Britain's emergence as the world power in track cycling and the rise of its riders among a professional road scene once ruled by mainland Europeans, is believed to be the front runner.

McQuaid is widely expected to pay the price for what Cookson has labelled the UCI's "inefficient handling" of the Armstrong affair and a stance which his critics say reflects too closely that of Hein Verbruggen, his predecessor.

The seemingly squeaky clean Cookson is "confident" of winning by a majority and said he would quickly launch a "truth and reconciliation" process, and build bridges with the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

He also wants to "make our sport one where people can admire their heroes without doubt, aspire to compete, be a professional, even win a tour or an Olympic medal and know that their friends will respect and not question them."

If successful, it would be a major step for the unassuming Englishman who gave up his job as a top official in a local government urban design unit to devote more time to the sport in Britain.

If defeated, McQuaid said he would walk away. "I know if I lose I certainly won't be looking to make a legal challenge. I'd walk away. I would hope my opponent would do the same," he said.

The Irishman has based his campaign on his efforts to eradicate doping, notably introducing the pioneering biological passport programme.

But McQuaid reportedly has little favour with the majority of Europe's delegates.

McQuaid believes Igor Makarov, the Russian Cycling Federation president - who has reportedly compiled a secret dossier against the UCI chief - played a crucial role in that development.

Makarov's secret dossier reportedly contains proof that McQuaid took and solicited bribes, and tried to bend the rules for drugs cheat Armstrong, allegations McQuaid has denied.

But it already seems the damage by Makarov - who has always denied he is backing Cookson - has been done. "He's done several things and he's certainly not working for me," added McQuaid. "I hope his influence doesn't swing the result."

But Cookson is not celebrating yet: "Elections can be won or lost in the last few days, and I'm very conscious of that."