As President of the UCI, (Union Cycliste Internationale) cycling’s governing body Pat McQuaid has been in charge of the sport during its darkest days.
The loquacious Irishman must lead cycling into a new era when all suspicion of cheating in racing is removed.
He has his critics and there are those who want him out. At the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland he reflected with euronews on the damage the name, Lance Armstrong has done to the sport.
Pat McQuaid: “Whether it will haunt the sport remains to be seen and certainly it is two words we are having to deal with a lot now over the past couple of months indeed years and you know we have read a lot, we have heard a lot, we have listened a lot. We have listened to a lot of fans and because of everything that has happened we have taken decisive action.
‘We have set in place an independent commission, completely independent to study what the UCI did during that Lance Armstrong period to see what mistakes it made, if it made any and to report back to the UCI.
‘And then in addition to that looking to the future, they deal with the past. Looking to the future we have set up a stakeholder consultation process which is already ongoing with all of our stakeholders and I have no doubt it will produce a very positive result as well.
‘The point is most people expect, you know, in any form of society there is cheating, there is cheating in religion, there is cheating in business, there is cheating in politics and so there is cheating in sports. And the UCI suffers from doping as cheating and it is something which we are out to eradicate, you know we are constantly working to do that.
Paul McDowell, euronews: “You want globalisation of the sport, in fact at one stage you wanted to cut back on the number of days on two of the biggest races in Europe, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta so you could spread the message further. There is more money, there is more sponsors there is people grabbing at it – ideal for cheating to get a slice of that cake.”
Pat McQuaid: “Well obviously wherever you have a lot of money, in all sport and many activities where you have a lot of money you will have cheating. It is our job to control the cheating and to monitor and control it and that is what we have been doing and in recent years with the new measures we have brought in – biological passport – we are the first to set up a blood bank which created the biological passport, we brought that in. We brought in the no needles policy within the sport, no needles are allowed within the teams. We brought in a rule whereby from 2011 onwards no athlete who has been convicted of doping can never come back into the sport’s entourage.”
euronews: “Does it still go on?”
Pat McQuaid: “I can’t say it does and I can’t say it doesn’t, but what I can say – there is a lot less than during the Lance Armstrong period and that the activities that he and his team which we read were doing would not be possible today.”
euronews “It’s believed within the sport, allegedly a blind-eye was always turned.”
Pat McQuaid: “The independent commission will show if a blind eye was turned or not and I have no doubt a blind eye was not turned it’s just that science was not able to detect it. It was not just the UCI which tested Armstrong and his team-mates is was also WADA, It was also, USADA it was also the AFLD in France, it was also CONI in Italy all of them tested them as well and he was negative and his team-mates were negative so the system wasn’t strong enough and the system let us down in effect.
‘We do have a strategy to get rid of doping but changing a culture is not something you can determine because you are changing a whole load of aspects from the cyclists and right through their entourage and also the rule for instance I brought in you know last year to not allow any athlete to come back into the entourage it couldn’t be done retroactively so it could only be brought in from last year. In time that will weed out potential guys coming back into the sport, guys who have been involved in doping.”
euronews: “The whole focus of the Lance Armstrong business has sharpened on the UCI and your presidency as well. Has it damaged you below the water line?”
Pat McQuaid: “No I don’t think so. I have had many, many emails, phone calls and letters of support from federation presidents, from different stakeholders, from my board, my three vice-presidents have all spoken to me when they heard calls in recent weeks for me to resign and said under no circumstance am I to consider resigning that I have too much to do, there is too much good work going on and that I have to stay there.”
euronews: “But you are the man surely who has to decide whether you will resign or not whether you will go not people from behind you, your power base.”
Pat McQuaid: “Certainly, absolutely I will decide if and when I do go but as I always say when I came in in 2005 as president I had two objectives, globalisation of the sport and getting rid completely of doping in the sport. I haven’t achieved either of the yet but I do intend achieving them so I will stay until they are achieved.”
euronews: “There are plenty who want to see you out as you well know, names like Greg LeMond, etc but you are determined to stand for a third term?”
Pat McQuaid: “I am determined to stand. I mean look at Greg LeMond what has Greg LeMond done for sport in the last 25 years, nothing – he has been stood outside criticising it. I read even recently that Paul Kimmage stated in an interview that this group of his, this CCN (Change Cycling Now) group put Greg Le Mond’s name up as a PR stunt, I mean this is not the time for PR stunts this is the time for action and for working together not trying to divide people and so forth and they went on to say that Greg – you know to try and put someone up as an interim president it’s arrogant to the extreme.”
euronews: “Pat if you go back to when you were road racing put that head on for a minute how would you feel if all that was going on in your sport from that perspective and not from the presidency.”
Pat McQuaid: “I would be very, very annoyed, very angry and I would be very angry with the people involved in it and the people who caused it as I am anyway.”
euronews: “The foundation are guys that go out on the weekend in the peleton for fresh air, good sport. I mean how do you look them in the eye?”
Pat McQuaid: “Well I mean the foundation is but don’t make any mistake about it don’t be anyway naive about it guys that go out at the weekend as amateurs also nowadays can take doping products too for whatever reason they do, so I think the sport is the sport and I think professionals love the sport equally as much as amateurs do.”
euronews: “Is it happening in the amateur sport?”
Pat McQuaid: “Well, it’s – I mean there have been amateurs caught doping, yes. There have been juniors caught and we have caught juniors and under 23s and so forth have been caught. I mean there are different reasons why people take doping there would be under 23s who take doping products to get themselves a contract to turn professional so those type of cheating possibilities are there all along the line. It’s not just a question of prevention it’s not just a question of testing and so forth, education and creating the right environment at the outset is more important and that is what the UCI is heavily involved in, in education programmes and as are national federations, but I mean you know cheats come at any age.”
euronews: “If amateurs can take it then what hope have you got to…
Pat McQuaid: “Well that’s, and again that’s part of the stakeholder consultation will deal with that because a lot of the time you may be correct that the national federations say well doping only happens at professional level so that’s the UCI’s problem we don’t have to involve ourselves and within this consultation there will be discussions about that.”
euronews: “Just looking back over the last four years there have been legal consultations, there have been court proceedings there has been defamation of characters there is a whole list. Can that stop, can you in another term bring the factions together?”
Pat McQuaid: “I would certainly hope it can and I hope it will certainly stop. People need to understand that the UCI is there, the UCI may have its faults but the only way this sport is going to go forward is for the stakeholders and the UCI working together to bring it forward. You are not going to replace the UCI with something else and some of these people are making suggestions which are far from reality so the best way forward is for everybody to work together with the UCI. You know criticise it for its faults, praise it when it needs praised, help it when it needs help but that way the sport can move forward if everybody is working together and I think that’s what we are in the process of realising at the moment.”