Massive congratulations to Brian Cookson on his election in the last hour as the new President of cycling’s world governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
Congratulations too to the voting members who have given cycling the sort of opportunity we at SKINS, the pressure Group Change Cycling Now and millions of fans across the world have been demanding.
I wish Brian all the very best in his new – and very responsible – position. It’s a massive job because cycling is on the floor and the man he has replaced simply wasn’t up to the task.
Pat McQuaid’s time was up. He mismanaged and manipulated his way through his tenure which is exactly why we stood so firmly against him over the last 12 months or so.
I’m proud that, through SKINS, we kept the pressure on him to reflect the mood of fans across the world. Pat certainly didn’t like it and he tried everything he could to divert people away from the criticisms that were almost endlessly coming his way in an attempt to save his job, including targeting me personally.
The thing Pat clearly didn’t realise in the final months that lead up to the election, was that the more determined he got to rebuff the criticism and accusations of malfeasance, the more determined we all were to drive home the message.
Brian Cookson’s election is a massive shot in the arm for world cycling and I’m delighted we were in some way, a part of getting him through the door.
Our public involvement began in October last year when I wrote an open letter to Mr. McQuaid calling for immediate support for USADA or for him to resign. Unfortunately for cycling (and himself), Mr. McQuaid failed to do either.
The Lance Armstrong affair brought a series of allegations of mis-management by Mr McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen, including suggestions that they covered up positive tests provided by Lance Armstrong before the turn of the century in order to protect cycling’s prized asset. At this time, there was a genuine air of denial emanating from the Presidential offices and it was the catalyst for our approach and, I think, the beginning of the end for Pat.
He didn’t like the open letter very much and he certainly didn’t like it when we also revealed SKINS had sent a letter of demand to the UCI for damages to our brand through our investments in cycling. Again, Mr. McQuaid failed to act appropriately.
Next came the creation of Change Cycling Now and support from three times Tour de France winner Greg Le Mond and a host of stakeholders, former riders and media representatives. The meeting in London was very successful and the subsequent press conference was attended and reported on by many. The impact of CCN was immediately measured by the message we received straight after the press conference that had been carried ‘live’ by international broadcasters. Within minutes, the UCI Independent Commission that had been set up to investigate the UCI’s handling of the Lance Armstrong affair asked CCN for it’s assistance with their work. In the subsequent 6 weeks, as the Commission strengthened its intention to act wholly independently, Pat McQuaid unilaterally disbanded it. It was clear, the Commission’s intentions had ‘spooked’ him but the very act of disbanding a group he had promised would get to the truth was telling in itself. No-one else was party to the decision and single-handedly, Pat McQuaid put an end to the Commission’s work. It proved that the intention for the ‘independent’ Commission had clearly been anything but.
The route towards endorsement for re-election was a farce too. Pat McQuaid manipulated the Irish and the Swiss to try and garner their support. Consequently, we supported disenfranchised Swiss federation members when they sought to take the issue of an irregular Swiss nomination process to arbitration. SKINS funded the costs of their action, and under increasing media scrutiny and public pressure, the Swiss federation withdrew their support for Pat. Meanwhile the Irish finally voted against him when their endorsement, which had been ratified by a small number of board members and also challenged, was forced to a democratic vote.
Despite the last minute twists and turns of a desperate man seeking to change the rules, it’s now all over. When we started our journey, our aim was to oust Pat McQuaid from his position as President of a sporting body he had abjectly failed to serve with the sort of integrity expected of such high office. Now it has happened and I feel a sense of achievement in the knowledge that the weight of our determination may have made a difference.
The UCI voters have confirmed we were right to make a stand and I’m delighted. Brian Cookson’s election is the latest moment whereby the power of reason and the determination of the willing has given sport a life line.
If SKINS has played its part, then I’m delighted. A sport that we, as a company still believe in, now has a chance to restore integrity and confidence after suffering through a damaging period of malfeasance and corruption.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?