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USA Cycling presses UCI to go before sports court

September 9, 2013

The International Cycling Union is being pressured to allow sport’s highest court to decide contentious issues surrounding its upcoming presidential election.

Mike Plant, the U.S. delegate on the UCI board, wrote a letter Sunday to President Pat McQuaid, UCI director general Christophe Hubschmid and its management committee asking that they let the Court of Arbitration for Sport decide whether McQuaid can stand for re-election on Sept. 27.

McQuaid claims he has valid nominations from governing bodies in Thailand and Morocco, where he is a member, even though his home federations in Ireland and Switzerland withdrew their support.

Plant’s letter was written in response to the UCI’s executive board unanimously voting Friday to reject an American-led request to allow to CAS decide whether McQuaid’s nominations are valid.

“A ruling by CAS would provide a much-needed degree of certainty for UCI delegates in knowing that the current and future candidates standing for election are in fact eligible to do so, and that the election results will be valid and not open to post-election legal challenge,” Plant wrote in his letter, a copy of which was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

“As you now know, CAS confirmed this week that they are prepared to quickly convene a panel to hear and rule on this significant issue prior to the election in Florence,” Plant said.

At issue is wording in the UCI constitution that requires a candidate be nominated by “the federation of the candidate.” McQuaid believes his membership in the Thai and Moroccan federations fulfill the obligation, while rivals — including supporters of British challenger Brian Cookson — believe he must have support from Ireland or Switzerland to stand for re-election.

Several national governing bodies also have expressed concerns that UCI staff may have breached protocol by helping Malaysian officials draft a rule amendment allowing any two member countries to propose a candidate and to apply it retroactively for the current contest.

That amendment is scheduled to be voted upon when the UCI convenes in Florence, Italy. Then the 42-voter electoral college will be charged with choosing the president by secret ballot.

“It is entirely appropriate — and necessary — for a highly-respected, independent body such as CAS to resolve this specific question,” Plant wrote of the validity of McQuaid’s nomination.

While McQuaid has earned praise for introducing the revolutionary biological passport program, his reputation also has been soiled by the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping affair. Revelations of an endemic culture of doping while the UCI was led by McQuaid’s mentor and predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, also have cast the governing body in a negative light.

McQuaid has said he is committed to “combating the scourge of doping in cycling,” but his link to the sport’s drug-riddled past are among the reasons Ireland and Switzerland refuse to support him.

USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson told the AP last week that it is important for the presidential dispute to be decided in part to allay concerns about the organization’s credibility.

“We believe this is a great time to draw a line in the sand,” Johnson said. “Mr. McQuaid himself keeps mentioning the fact that he would like an open and fair democratic election, and we absolutely agree. To have such an election be legitimate, it has to follow the rules.”

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