Not Dead Yet


I summon that famous, nay iconic, line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a means of framing a certain perspective on Pat McQuaid and the election for the office of UCI President that looms a few weeks away.  I’ve avoided writing about McQuaid for some weeks in part because my stomach and central nervous system couldn’t take me thinking about him any more than the weekly story that would pop up on him. However, since my last missive on cycling’s resident ebola case, there have been just too many surprising and twisted turns not to revisit this particular fever.

When last I devoted the bulk of a post to the McQuaid problem he had just been jilted by his own Irish federation, wherein votes were cast largely along generational lines. The old guard’s defense of McQuaid consisted almost exclusively of a half apology, summed up as, ‘Sure, he’s got his faults, but look how much he’s done.’ Fortunately, the young bucks held the day and McQuaid’s nomination went the way of a great many cockroaches—one down, several more to go.

Next up was the Swiss nomination. On deck was the question of whether McQuaid deserved to be nominated by the Swiss federation by virtue of the fact that McQuaid was a resident of the country. Fortunately for us, that question doesn’t need to be resolved and will never be resolved. Here’s why: in nominating McQuaid, the Swiss federation had circumvented its own rules in order to prevent members who disagreed with the nomination from shutting it down. When the Swiss federation president refused to withdraw McQuaid’s nomination, one board member of the federation, Mattia Galli, resigned and then joined a coalition including Skins CEO Jaimie Fuller to challenge the nomination. It’s worth noting here that McQuaid “joined” the Swiss federation even prior to the fiery crash of his Ireland-based nomination.

Civil cases such as the one brought by the Galli/Fuller group carry a prohibitive bar in Swiss courts. To bring a case, a payment to the courts of 100,000 Swiss francs must be paid. The claimant (Fuller, et al) must pony up 50,000, while the respondent (Swiss cycling) must cough up the other 50,000 in order for the case to go forward. To my American eye, it seems a silly system. To kill the case, all the respondent has to do is not pay his 50,000 CHF share and hope that the gambit deters the claimant from proceeding. However, the claimant, if he believes his case is of solid merit and this isn’t just a spurious claim, can advance the respondent’s share. Certainly, such a system will cut down on frivolous actions, but it seems destined to chill legitimate actions. After all, how many people have the resources to part with 100,000 CHF (roughly $107,000) for months, maybe years?

Fortunately, Fuller has proven that he’s more than willing to put his company’s resources to use in his pursuit of McQuaid, so he advanced not just the first 50,000, but also the other 50,000, calling their bluff. The lawsuit was a go. That put the Swiss federation in a losing position. Because they had violated their own governance rules in putting forward McQuaid’s nomination, they would lose the case, and once they lost the case, they’d have to pay their lawyers, the opposition’s lawyers and that full 100,000-franc bond. Those with knowledge of the federation’s finances said it would be a ruinous amount, a Great White Shark at their leg. There seemed to be a few days in which it seemed the Swiss might be considering proceeding, but McQuaid proved to be worth a good deal less than 100,000 CHF. So they withdrew his nomination and saved themselves the equivalent of a luxury car.

Even after the Swiss federation announced that they had withdrawn his nomination, McQuaid’s spokesman was telling the world they hadn’t. But they had. As folks nearly say, saying it ain’t so doesn’t make it not so.

Here’s where the story gets comical. McQuaid declared that he was a member of “six or seven federations.”

Really? Why stop there? Why isn’t he a member of all of them? Weirder still, why is it six or seven? How is it he’s not certain just how many federations he’s a member of? Is he joining them drunk? Has he invented blackout governance?

What. The. Hell.

But that’s not even the part that’s funny. He went to the Malaysian federation and cajoled them into proposing a retroactive revision to the UCI’s constitution that would allow him to be nominated by any two federations, and he has now secured a nomination of that variety from the federations of Morocco and Thailand. For this nomination to be valid, Article 51 of the UCI’s constitution, which defines how a member may be nominated, must be changed. But it’s not enough just to change it now; it must be changed retroactively, meaning that to keep the office of president, McQuaid needs a time machine.

In an interview on Irish radio McQuaid claimed he was not only not breaking the rules, he was “not even bending the rules.”

Okay, so when I write it like that, it’s not that funny. Maybe we should cue a laugh track. I’m sure Monty Python could have made a better joke of it, provided we weren’t talking about Pat McQuaid, but something humorous, like the Spanish Inquisition.

For some weeks I have been entertaining the thought that the world of cycling should allow one or more of McQuaid’s latest nominations to stand. Let an election go forward. Surely Brian Cookson would trounce McQuaid in any election where reasonable people cast the votes, right? I haven’t even bothered to endorse Cookson because the need to acquit ourselves of McQuaid is so great that I’d vote for Attila the Hun before I’d vote for McQuaid, providing I had a vote and all. Which I don’t. The point here is that losing the election would be the final, irrefutable verdict on McQuaid’s tenure, the outcome that would send him packing, publicly.

But then I remembered that McQuaid had managed enough arm twisting to secure the following:

  • The Swiss federation to nominate him (even if only briefly)
  • The Malaysian federation to propose a change to the constitution
  • The Moroccan federation to nominate him
  • The Thai federation to nominate him

If he can get four different federations, at least one of which should know better than to participate in shady politics, to take a public stance in support of him, then securing a vote is, scarily, probably infinitely easier. So far, Australia is the only nation to go on record saying they will definitely vote for Cookson. Representatives from Cycling Australia have intimated that all the nations of Oceania are likely to vote with them, but that’s still only a handful of votes. Consider just how many nations there are in Africa and Asia alone. Every nation in Europe and North America could vote against McQuaid and he could still win.

That’s when I realized that we can’t leave this outcome to something as easily manipulated as a democratic election. An election is worse than a game of chance.

That the presidents of so many federations have remained completely silent on McQuaid mystified me for some months. Then I realized they knew something I didn’t. You have to figure that in the awful event that McQuaid should be re-elected to the presidency, anyone who has taken a public stand against him will feel painful retribution and it’s safe to assume that retribution will extend to the whole of the federation and its licensed riders.

Is it too much to think that there would suddenly be a rash of positive tests from riders of that country? No, I don’t think so.

For that reason, I’m enormously heartened by the emergence of the Gang of Five (as they are being called). The federation presidents for the U.S., Russia, Canada, Finland and Algeria have collectively signed a letter sent to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) asking them to rule on the validity of McQuaid’s rule changes. Before we get to the meat of their request, let’s consider this collection of nations: the U.S., Russia, Canada, Finland and Algeria. Not France, not Germany, not the Netherlands, not Belgium, not Spain, not Italy—hell, not even Ireland. I take this collection as a corollary to my previous point.

In their letter, the signatories described their reaction to the rule changes as, “amusement to outrage, from bewilderment to astonishment.” They are asking CAS to rule on the validity of these rule changes because they fear a protracted legal battle over the presidency should McQuaid win the election. Yet another corollary to my previous point. The UCI is in enough of a mess that a legal battle over who is the rightful president would only further damage cycling, but because we understand that what drives McQuaid isn’t the good of the sport, he’d be willing to fight by any means at his disposal in order to keep power. I have to imagine that he’d spend the UCI into bankruptcy because I simply can’t foresee a circumstance in which he’d relinquish power for the good of the sport.

It seems likely that CAS will rule against the rule change, but this will only come swiftly if the UCI voluntarily agrees to the hearing. Can someone find me a Vegas bookie to take that bet?

It also seems likely that the UCI, as an instrument of McQuaid’s arrogance and desperation, will fight this hearing from happening. If they do, the election will be delayed, probably for months. Of course, that will keep McQuaid in power just that much longer. But that’s his endgame; every additional day of power is a day of survival.

Given the way the whole of cycling has suffered here in the U.S. in the wake of the Armstrong scandal, I’m heartened that Steve Johnson has taken this step as the president of USA Cycling. Johnson, it’s worth noting, he was installed as president in the wake of the near-bankruptcy of USA Cycling, which was rescued by none other than Tom Weisel. Johnson’s ties and relationship to Weisel (which could merit a post of its own) has made him one of the targets of criticism that doping is endemic less to the riders than it is to the leadership of cycling itself. No other federation has suffered as great a loss in reputation thanks to the USADA Reasoned Decision as the U.S. has. Johnson and the the other signatories to the request for the CAS hearing isn’t exactly a rebuke of McQuaid, but it could be construed as a shot across his bow. Asking for a speedy resolution to a thorny question suggests you don’t have a dog in the fight, and that ought to give McQuaid pause, but it doesn’t seem like anything penetrates that thick exterior.

McQuaid aside, that Johnson and USA Cycling would finally take a public stand in support of good governance is the first indication I’ve seen that things might change at USA Cycling, that there could be a way out of this morass.

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  1. Full Monte

    It’s not solely that McQuaid would punish any riders from federations casting votes against him (should he win the election) that causes this administrative omertà. The current silence of these federation’s presidents may be also about personal preservation. Should McQuaid lose the election and his power, and the new regime and its lawyers begin to uncover his misdeeds (and those of his predecessor), McQuaid will not go down quietly. He will expose anyone and everyone, innocent and guilty alike, in positions of power and influence throughout the sport.

    “It wasn’t me, it was them, it was all of us,” will be his defense. By taking everyone down, he’ll attempt to save himself. He may just win the election because some federations are too afraid of his ultimate, nuclear option should he lose.

  2. Hoshie99

    He needs to go; yet he has a good chance of staying especially if a “normal” vote is taken but I suspect a personal victory will further tarnish the sport.

    I would not be surprised if it was the tipping point for the uci completely imploding.

    I wonder if the various federations have any clue how critical a change in leadership is? Major sponsors leaving (Rabobank), low credibility, declining revenues? Pro cycling is in a slow motion echelon to irrelevance…


  3. jb

    Padraig, this is the most succinct and articulate review of this whole mess I have yet read. Take, for example, the nuances of the Swiss nomination and withdrawal. No other author has laid it out as well.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Steve

    Not sure why you care this much about this but I am really grateful that you do.
    Every professional cyclist and casual observer should be too….
    Courage, Reg!

    1. Author

      These are some of the more unusual compliments I’ve received, which makes them pleasantly memorable. Thanks all.

      As to the balloting, I’m not sure how that works. I’ll have to ask around.

  5. SusanJane

    I have found myself cheering out loud several times with each time McQuaid takes another blow. I had gotten too depressed about this whole thing, so I turned it around — spectator sport politics. Woo-hoo! Thank goodness Cookson is more than a viable candidate.

    Question: how does the voting itself take place? Is it secret ballot or stand and deliver?

  6. Luis Oliveira

    The only (and a rather minor one) to this otherwise brilliant article is that the vote is not by the national federations but by delegates representing continents. The relative weight of the continents does relate to their sporting importance (so France vote is not the same as Morocco, for example.)

  7. Eric L.

    “Here’s where the story gets comical. McQuaid declared that he was a member of “six or seven federations.”
    Really? Why stop there? Why isn’t he a member of all of them? Weirder still, why is it six or seven? How is it he’s not certain just how many federations he’s a member of? Is he joining them drunk? Has he invented blackout governance?”

    Come on. What cyclist hasn’t been there. Out one night at the pub talking watts, wheels, frames, and component groups. A few pints later and you wake up the next morning with a hangover and a Sri Lankan federation card.

  8. SusanJane

    Eric L. says: Has he invented blackout governance?”

    Best joke I’ve heard in all this! I woke-up my sister because I was laughing too loud. Super depressing. Super funny.

  9. Eric L.


    While I love getting credit for jokes, the “blackout governance” comment was from Padraig. I simply quoted that as a set up to expand on the idea that McQuaid was joining federations drunk. The last paragraph is my writing.

    That said, Padraig has a great sense of humor that comes out here at times. This article had some of his better material. The other laugh out loud moment in my reading of this one was the following:

    “I’m sure Monty Python could have made a better joke of it, provided we weren’t talking about Pat McQuaid, but something humorous, like the Spanish Inquisition.”

    Not only is that a fantastic use of ironic metaphor but it also recognizes so many of us geeky cyclists actually get the Monty Python reference.

    So now do we have to start saying, “Nobody expects Pat McQuaid!”?

    1. Author

      Eric L: I nearly spit up my recovery drink when I read, “Nobody expects Pat McQuaid.”

      That, sir, deserves to be a new meme.

      And thanks to you and SusanJane for the kind words for the writing.

  10. Patrick O'Brien

    That was a great post that educated and informed me about this continuing fiasco. I have a question. Why is it that more people are not running for UCI President. Seems like there have been only two, with only McQuaid really interested.

    1. Author

      Patrick O’Brien: I’ve asked myself the same question. If I didn’t love what I do so much, I’d have run. I suspect it a demonstration of just how feared McQuaid is and the degree to which no one wants to lock horns with him for as long as he’s in power. No one wants to take the first shot, but everyone will be there to dance on his grave. So to speak.

  11. David Shaw

    I’d love to your hypothesis of what might happen if McQuaid were to win another election. Would we see Vaughters lead a great revolution to start a breakaway league? A mass strike by riders perhaps, leading to a collapse of the UCI? Or am I just dreaming like a Hollywood director in the market for a new underdog story?

    1. Author

      It would certainly make for the perfect setting for a Hollywood intrigue thriller. Unfortunately, I suspect that a lot of people (and sponsors) would just write the sport off as being unrescuable. I don’t see any revolution taking place. We’re in the midst of the time when people should be putting their shoulders behind the effort, and really, lots of people who ought to be speaking out against McQuaid are quieter than a well-oiled hinge.

  12. SusanJane

    “Shh. Vote for Cookson.” The whisper campaign waiting to happen.

    Does anyone know how I contact my delegate so I can make my opinion matter? The old adage was something like every letter a representative received equaled 100 others who felt the same. In this case it has to be _way_ larger then that.

  13. John spooner

    The people willing to keep McQuaid in power are those with the most to lose, far too many of those running the sport have doping ? marks hanging over them.

    Read any Cycling history book of the Pro Era & its filled with it fair share of Dopers,& lots of those went onto or run teams or back ground jobs in the UCI.

    Armstrong pushed it too far & as for the larger part become the fall guy for a dirty sport , & in the same way so is McQuaid Armstrongs ban will not stop doping.

    Nore will getting ride of yes the very dodgy Pat McQuaid from the way I see it the problem runs through the middle of core of cycling.

    like series of stepping stone from Juniors´through to Pro’s the whole issues as dogged cycling for decades now.

    The writer mentioned Germany since I moved here from the UK Cycling as a sport as taken a massive noise dive due to scandle after scandle that now includes several German riders & one former Tour winner, the end result is a massive turn off.

    No TV German TV channel shows Cycling anymore to say you race a bike is a dirty word so much so that even after several riders won stages in this year tour news coverage was nil.

    Though on the flip side Cycle sale’s have out stripped cars sales here so the affect is not on the market its self.

    In the UK its the opposite for now they are top of the heap ,even though lots in Europe suspect some sort of doping going on, since passing a doping control means nothing to people these days since the 90’s revelations proved what a farce dope testing as been in the past decades.

    For me only a major clear out of the rotten people running & controlling Cycling will bring change, that will have to start some where it just depends if removing McQuaid will lead to change or just simply papering over the cracks & just moving on with least amount of upset.

    Time will tell for sure

  14. Derek

    “Nobody expects Pat McQuaid.”
    Sheer awesomeness.
    @David Shaw when talking about the collapse of the UCI there are some interesting history lessons involving the BMX organizations battles in the US. The ABA/NBL war killed some tracks and did nothing that made you want to have a kid involved in “that” sport. So kids didn’t get to race. USOC, please notice I was very careful not to say anything bad about you.

  15. Jaimie Fuller

    Simply the best piece I’ve read on the matter.
    Thanks Padraig for articulating the whole nightmare so clearly.
    This man will stop at nothing to protect his job and
    disallow the scrutiny of others if he’s replaced. We have every right to ask why is this guy so terrified of losing the control over the narrative and facts
    Well done mate

  16. Evan

    Dopplegangers Pat and LA are actually the same person, same tactics same grandiose arrogant power greed and callous depraved indifference.

    They will form a new organization called Phatstrong. Globalization of amateur sportsman living the lie that thinking positive makes us invulnerable rich and beautiful.

    Greed is good as they say on Wall St.

    Very very good article well done.

  17. Skippy

    Having only come to this Blogpost , after i had written my latest summary of the FARCE that we are enduring , i feel sure that those having read this post , are able to understand the frustration so many are suffering !

    With ONLY 42 ” Voting Delegates “, being allowed to vote on the 27th September at the Firenze Congress , there is NO CERTAINTY that the scrutineers will ONLY FIND 42 ballots ! jim burn , aka phat the rat , will follow the path of his ” Mentors “, mugabe & the dear leader , in proceeding to ” bend ” each & every part of the UCI Constitution , that he draws Salary to preserve !

    In the comments it was noted that France is not equal to Morocco , since they are on separate continents ! The UCI Constitution is so convuluted that even the UCI Staff in Aigle are unsure as to how to protect their derriere when the Aigle tag Team Duo are rampaging through the offices . What benefit does Malaysia expect , or even Thailand & Morocco , for being shown up as sycophantic pawns , as a result of their interfering with ” Due Process “? We know that the Swiss Board Member was able to get the “Tour de Romandie ” included as a ” Pro World Event ” for another three years . Forced to resign in disgrace , is little loss now that his event is guaranteed front of house exposure .

    When you consider that phat was able to get Lance to ride the Tour of Ireland , FOR FREE , after he collected MILLIONS from the Oz Tour , you will understand the influence he continues to wield . Padraig has got it right when he states that the ” Voting Delegates ” fear being dragged into the mire that they shared with nein fordruggen since 1991 !

    With ” Bach “, being elected President of the IOC , today , can we be certain that Verbruggen , notably silent recently , has lost influence and even interest in saving phat the rat from the fate he deserves ?

    The STENCH of Corruption at the UCI , is so strong at present that those 40 (42-2 ) other ” voting delegates ” may choose ” Death before dishonour ” , hoping that McQuaid can spin out the delaying tactics past the ” Statutes of Limitations “!

    Pity that the Racers and their Support Staff are the people who will lose ! You & I and other Stakeholders can find other Sports or Bodies to associate with , they rely on an income to support their Families & Lifestyle !

    In 10 days i will be in Firenze asking Jim burn , WHY , he is trying to burn the house down around him . I met him at Porto Vecchio , after calling him jim burns , and had him tell me he was proud of calling himself jim burn ! I told him @gaudryt would do a better job for UCI , that he should work with her to give UCI credibility once more . On parting amicably , i feel sure he regarded me as another misguided nobody . Would you recognise Jan Ulrich ,Carlos Sastre , Vittorio Adorni as you pass them in the street ?

    SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE HAVE WORKED HARD FOR THE FUTURE OF CYCLING , yet we have this ” ebola virus “, rampant in our midst ! Time past, for ALL GOOD CYCLING FANS to call ” PISS OFF, YOU ARE VERMIN “!

  18. Mike

    Well said. I wonder how much McQuaid has promised federations who support him in exchange for a vote. That the asian federations will not even meet Cookson to evaluate him, shows how dirty the game is.
    Fortunately the vote needed to disallow the constitution change, and with it the nomination is a lot less than needed to vote mcquaid out, so I think the northern hemisphere federations can prevent mcquaid being elected.

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