Former UCI president Pat McQuaid has been visiting Turkey for the 51. Tour of Turkey this week and before he left today, we had the chance to sit with him and talk about the CIRC report, potential WorldTour reforms, UCI and other pressing topics.
Coming from a dinner with his wife at his last night in Turkey, he looked very relaxed and was -as usual- very open and talkative. On a personal note, he looks fitter than last year, which he also underlines in our chat, saying he feels young at 65.
The CIRC report was a wonderful opportunity which was missed. A lot of money was spent on things already known in the public but proved that the UCI wasn’t involved in corruption
I read the CIRC report and it comes out relatively positive regarding your tenure. Main points are Armstorng didn’t bribe the UCI and it also acknowledges that things have changed after 2006 when Anne Gripper arrived. I quote “period of improvements, new challenges and regular set-backs”. What’s you take on the report?
My take on is that it was a wonderful opportunity which was missed. I think it was missed because it was to some extent politically put together. It was very much something which was worked out in advance of the elections in 2013, between Brian Cookson and the incoming president of WADA, Sir Craig Reedie and Dick Pound as well and USADA. They are all involved in pushing the UCI to make this truth and reconciliation or independent commission looking into allegations against the UCI. Hamilton and Landis have made allegations against the UCI in the previous years saying that Armstrong has told them that UCI has covered up doping test of Armstrong. UCI knew that wasn’t the case but nobody wanted to believe us.
So the report was politically pushed and too narrowly focused on just Armstrong and what happened with Armstrong and so forth. It didn’t really go into the work of the UCI over the two periods of presidency by myself and Verbruggen in any great detail.
A lot of money, at best part CHF3 million was spent on things already known in the public. In effect, the only thing it did to was to prove that those allegations were incorrect and were lies, that the UCI wasn’t involved in corruption and in complicity and hiding anti-doping cases, for Armstrong or anybody else. From that point of view, I think that the current administration of UCI should really have looked upon it as a report which proved there was no corruption and take that in a positive light.
What they seem to have done is to try to take it in a negative light because the commission, when they found there is no corruption, they then went into governance decisions made by the UCI.
I am very angry about having been criminalized
Indeed, what about Armstrong wasn’t allowed to run at Tour Down Under but then raced the Tour of Ireland?
That was the only criticism they had at my governance. When you consider that the night of the election, President Cookson moved one of the biggest forensic IT companies (Kroll) in the world into the UCI offices to take command of our servers so that the commission could investigate all of the e-mails I have ever sent, ever came to me, personal, business, internal e-mails; all the emails throughout my presidency were then given to the control of CIRC. That immediately criminalized us from the beginning and I am very angry about that, and you know, it hasn’t proved to be correct.
In relation to governance issue of Armstrong, yes we allowed Armstrong to ride the Tour Down Under in 2009 with 10 days of derogation with UCI rule at that time, we took in to account was the fact that the biological passport was in place. When this rule (nb: 6months) set up in 2004, the biological passport wasn’t there. Armstrong have had in the 5 months and 20 days prior to riding Tour Down Under 6 blood and 6 urine tests. His passport was normal, therefore he was the same as all the other riders. We weighed that up with the fact that the passport was now in place and for the benefit of the sport.
The second aspect of it, which is about the Tour of Ireland is again what I call the mischief on the part of the CIRC to actually report that. What they are calling was a temporal link (nb: in an earlier version of this article there was a typing error confusing “temporal” with “temporary”. Having checked the voice record, we confirm Mr. McQuaid used the correct word “temporal”, as it is mentioned in the CIRC report). Now, what is a temporal link, I don’t know. But that there was a some sort of link between Armstrong riding the Tour Down Under and Armstrong riding the Tour of Ireland, which is completely untrue. From the moment Armstrong announced he’s coming back to racing, my brother, who’s involved in organization of Tour of Ireland, made contact to Livestrong, the foundation. He knew that Livestrong was looking to hold a cancer conference in Europe sometime in 2009. He offered them “why not hold it in Dublin?” in connection with Tour of Ireland. He started to talk with the Irish government, with the Irish department of health and the Irish cancer society about the possibility of Livestrong holding a cancer conference in Ireland and he was eventually successful with that. It was that what brought Armstrong to Ireland, it had nothing to do with me.
The report also mentions secret meetings between Lon Schattenberg and Philippe Verbiest, that was prior to Anne Gripper’s arrival.
It was prior to Anne Gripper’s and my arrival and I don’t believe that there were any secret meetings. I believe that meetings took place that would be normal procedure, a meeting between the person in charge of the anti-doping and the person in charge of the legal department. Again, its mischief of the report to call secret meetings unless they can actually prove what those meetings were involved in. To just say there were secret meetings was a mischief of statement.
When I became UCI president, I did it my way
Did you also try to change to govern especially in contrast to Hein Verbruggen? I quote from the report: …McQuaid would communicate and interact more directly and openly with the ADU. It is reported that Pat McQuaid would advise the ADU staff,… most ADU staff at the time felt that the ADU was “rather independent”
I didn’t do anything necessarily different. Hein Verbruggen was president for many years and administered UCI in a certain way. When I came in as president I wanted to do it my way, in relation to anti-doping, other things, I did it my way.
Anti-doping was a priority of mine, I knew the history of doping in cycling, history of EPO, I knew the difficulties of UCI during the EPO period as they were dealing with a product which there was no test for. I just wanted to change the culture of doping in the sport, that was my main objective. And as a result, whatever I could do, I did.
When I became president in September 2005 I immediately had to deal with Operacion Puerto the following year and that was a fairly big affair with a lot of pressure on UCI and on me. That even reinforced my view and my belief that we really need to get the grips with this doping situation. When the opportunity came to develop the biological passport, I jumped at that opportunity.
In the report’s recommendation section 3 anti-doping points stand out in my view. UCI should more qualitative rather than quantitative testing, the other point about the no test window 11-6 with respect to micro dosing in this period and the 3rd is retesting should be integral part of anti-doping strategy. What do you think about these points?
Let’s take them one by one. I agree with more qualitative than quantitative. During my period as presidency the UCI has increased out of competition controls from something like 42 in 2005 to to 4,500 in 2013. They increased in competition testing from 4,000 in 2005 to 8,000 in 2013. That’s the quantitative bit. You can’t do many more than that.
So qualitative testing is probably more important. The difficulty with qualitative testing (when’s the best time to actually test particular riders etc.) is that is it means that riders in biological passport may go 6 months without a test. They then could say to some journalist “you know I haven’t been tested for 6 months now”
The fact is, the reason he wouldn’t be tested is that he has a perfectly normal passport. Journalist then writes “Such and such rider hasn’t been tested for 6 months, what about this anti-doping program of the UCI?”. If you do quantitative and every rider gets tested every 2-3 months, you never have that issue. Again, it’s a communications issue, but I do agree, qualitative is the best way to do it.
What about ditching the 11-6 no testing window?
I don’t agree with that. I think at some stage an athlete has to be allowed to sleep and rest. That means on a race like Tour of Romandie which goes on right now, anti-doping inspectors can knock on a riders room at 3 am in the morning between 2 stages. I don’t think that should be allowed.
They are saying that micro-dosing is done during this night time period. According to all experts, micro-dose gives an advantage of 2-3%. EPO in the old days has given an advantage of 15-20%. If a rider, I think, is micro-dosing, he would always have in his head the possibility that he might get caught, make a mistake, that something in the system doesn’t adjust to micro-dosing. And that in itself , the worry of that, the psychological negatives reduces that 3% for me down to 1%. So 1% isn’t really worth it, it means it’s a level playing field virtually.
The last one, I completely agree with samples being retested, that is already in place.
Whistleblowers cannot help clean up a sport
What about another recommendation that the UCI should set up an independent whistleblower desk?
They can do, I set up a hotline already, 5-6 years ago athletes could ring up but nobody used it. With a whistleblower desk it’d be the same.
The problem with whistleblowers is if whistleblowers can help clean up a sport, I’d say, great let them do it. The problem with a whistleblower is, in 9 times out of 10, he’d tell you “this rider took something, this rider’s doping etc.” You got the two of them in, whistleblower says “such and such rider is on a doping program”. You get the rider in, he says “I’m not doing anything”. It’s one word against the other. In the end that they, it wasn’t a whistleblower that caught Armstrong, it was the FBI. The whistleblowers certainly gave the FBI the idea to start looking at him.
What about the potential reform of the presidential election system to involve the riders union more in the election?
I know involve the professional sector, give the teams more I don’t think that’s gonna make any difference. All international sports organizations have stakeholders involved but at the end of the day it’s the national federations worldwide who decide who their elected representatives are. I don’t think it would make any difference.
To close with this section, looking back after all these things, do you think that you had a big baggage from Verbruggen era which you had the deal with?
It is true that I had a baggage from the Verbruggen era, not from Verbruggen himself but from his era. Because he was president when it was like WWI trench warfare.
The UCI was dealing with drug taking at the level where there was no test available to find the products. That was done for 10 years with EPO. That’s why they brought in the health control. The health control kept a certain (nb: haematocrit) level. What that did was to allow guys to take EPO up to that level and control it there. That’s all they could do.
I think it was a lot of politics from WADA, USADA involved, they got involved in the UCI elections as well and contributed to the fact that I didn’t get re-elected.
Mr Makarow didn’t understand the fact that the UCI had an independent license commission
Ultimately it was the fact that the UCI licence commission took away the license of Katusha in 2012. Mr Makarow didn’t understand the fact that the UCI had an independent license commission which had this authority to do this. He didn’t understand that. He thought it was the UCI management committee should be the ones doing that.
When the ProTour, which was at that time, was set up back in 2005, the UCI had many discussions with European Commission about its structure. European Commission actually only allowed the UCI to set up the ProTour with one of the conditions being that the licenses for the teams were controlled by an independent commission. That’s the reason why the license commission was set up.
It independently took away the license of Katusha in 2012. Mr Makorow blamed me that I am not interfering, stopping that happening but I couldn’t do that. He then saught that I didn’t get elected in 2013.
Can you explain how the license commission is working? Does the UCI president have a say in it, who are the members?
License commission is now comprised now to best of my knowledge 4 judges. I met them but I don’t really know them. I know the president is Mr Pierre Zappelli who’s an ex senior judge from the Swiss court system and the other 3 have been judges as well. They all are knowledgable about cycling but they don’t necessarily have to need that knowledge to do the job they do because they evaluate things according to a certain criteria and decide about cancellations and a team gets a license or doesn’t.
The whole granting and rescinding of a license process is independent from the UCI. The UCI however gathers the material from the teams, from the Ernst and Young, from all administration, accounts and all that and gets other informations about the team, then gives it to the license commission for them to study and make its decision. It operates independently of the UCI.
Coming forward, the latest case of the license commission which is the Astana case. The UCI did not have the jurisdiction to ask the license commission to take away the license of Astana. UCI regulations state quite clearly that the only person who can ask the license commission to review the license for a team is the president of the professional cycling council and currently that’s David Lappartient, the vice president of the UCI.
The WorldTour reforms are dead and buried
About the world tour reforms, a lot of secrecy is there, you know divisions etc. They will eventually presented this December at the WorldTour Forum. We know Vuelta director Javier Guillem is against his tour being cut to 2 weeks. Do you think the UCI is rushing things ahead of the 2017 elections?
My understanding is that these reforms are dead and buried, gone in the water. That’s my understanding. Been talking to different professional teams and people in the stakeholders they tell me that the UCI has given up on these and they can’t find an agreement, then can’t find a consensus and the reforms won’t come.
You cannot run cycling like Formula 1
Recently Oleg Tinkov has posted a statement on Facebookabout how he imagines the new world of cycling. It looks a little like Ecclestone’s F1. Details aside, he says cycling is the second favourite spectator sport after football, but it’s also the poorest.
I don’t know where he got the figures about the second favourite. Certainly the numbers of people watching it live is very big. It is popular but it is one of the poorest, alright, but it’s got the traditional way, that’s the way the sport has been developed and is now over 100 years old. It has been developed with a certain structure and that structure means that organizers own the TV/media rights for their events. What Oleg Tinkov means one centralized person or group who control and run the whole sport as Ecclestone runs the Formula 1. In cycling it’s not going to change.
Sports science has become very important in running a team
Tinkov sacked Bjarne Riis recently eventually because of a Danish investigation on Riis’ past. But he has also put some questions about the way to run a team nowadays. Do you think things has changed in running a team?
Absolutely, it has. And I think that to some extent I was responsible for that. I remember that in the old days athletes would train maybe to keep themselves 80% of the preperation for races and the 20% comes from medical assistance, doping so to say. You take that 20% away, and most of it has been taken away, they have to replace by it something else. And that’s been replaced by sports science.
I did interviews when I became president. First thing I said was teams needed to be more professionally organized, more in control of riders, monitoring the riders a lot more, with different sorts of specialists. They need therapeutics, they need psychologists, physiologists, nutritionists all of these people as backroom staff of a team so that the team delivers.
When SKY decided to change Bradley Wiggins from one of the top track riders in particular in individual and team pursuit, the build he had for that, which he has developed over the years riding on track, very big hips so to speak. He then wanted to become a Grand Tour rider. He had the bone structure. He was a tall, thin guy but he has developed the hips from riding pursuits. They got nutritionists on the case and over a period of time his hips and thighs went down and then he became a climber when he won the Tour de France in 2012.
Now, Bradley Wiggins is saying he’s preparing for Rio and he has to put that weight back on to his hips to become a track rider. So sport science is what showed them how to lose weight from those particular areas without leaving other areas and how to put on the weight in the hips and thighs where he needs them.
What’s your take on women’s cycling nowadays?
I don’t think it has improved but stayed mostly the same. The UCI has spent a lot of money. La Course is a new event but it means that other good events are gone, it’s balancing up. La Course is a one day race in Paris which is certainly a great showcase for women’s cycling.
At the end of the day I agree that the UCI has to concentrate on women’s cycling but at the end of the day you have to look what the money you invest and what the return is. And someday soon UCI will look whether they get the return for the money they’re investing and I am not so sure what the results of that would be. But I do agree that women’s cycling needs support, has potential to improve but it’s a slow process.
What’s your take on Tour of Turkey this year?
My view is great, it has improved every year, it continues to improve. It’s now a very smooth race, very smooth organization,.I’ve been in the car 10 mins in front of the peloton and seen the road completely closed, the police and all that. So security of the race is absolutely terrific.
I see this year an increase numbers of people on the roadside. I think the public acceptance of the race is getting bigger and bigger. I know there is a desire from the organization it would become a WorldTour race.
That was my next question actually, what needs to be changed to get there?
Very little needs to be changed from the current organization, you have a lot of people who have a lot of experience they know what their job is, they do their job.
The amazing thing about cycling is, much different than football or basketball etc. when you’re at the start of the race, it looks like organized chaos, people come from all directions so on. When it comes to 5-10mins to the start, people are moving, going to cars, motorbikes and then the bunch gets on to the line and everybody moves out of town.
There are 3000 people on this race. Everyone has a job to do. And when everyone does its job correctly, the whole thing functions smoothly. Tour of Turkey has got to that stage now. It has for me all of the ingredients of a race that should be WorldTour.
There are already races concurring on WorldTour calendar, and if the WorldTour reforms don’t change anything because there was talk that WorldTour races would be no concurrence, just a straight line. In that situation it would be difficult for Tour of Turkey because it would have to find a week long space in the calendar because the historical races would have priority.
But if the WorldTour stays as it is today, Tour of Turkey should be able to take place in that WorldTour. When I first came out here for the relaunch of the race in 2009, in my media interviews that day I was strong in the fact that Turkey is a country with 70 million people and a country this size should have a major cycling race. It’s important for cycling, it’s important for Turkey. They have the major race now, and it should be part of the WorldTour in my opinion.
Last UCI elections were in September 2013, next one in 2017, are you going to run again?
That’s 2 years away now I even haven’t thought of that. I think the new UCI president would have plenty on his plate because I think current situation is not good. I don’t think that current administration has delivered many of his promises in the election campaign. So I think the next president will have to rebuild the UCI but whether that’s me or not, I don’t know.
You spent all your life in cycling, been on top of cycling , you’re approaching 70. In plain words, why are you doing this to yourself, you can sit back and enjoy races, travel from one race to the other…
I know I could do, I mean I feel young at 65. I have plenty of energy to work for another 10 years or so in whatever I choose to do. I don’t want to sit down, you know I’ve been involved in cycling all my life. I love the sport, am passionate about the sport. I’d love to do whatever I can to help the sport. I’ve been involved in all different aspect of the sport, from being a cyclist, being an organizer, federation official, ultimately president of UCI, whatever role, I even stood at the corner with red flags at local races and stopped the traffic.
So whatever I could to, whatever opportunities come my way to help the sport I would do. I’ve got children involved in sport, one is a lawyer and agent for riders, another manages the Baku team, so I am continuously talking to them. I am not a gardener, I don’t want to go putting grass and looking after flowers; maybe in 10 years time but now I don’t.
I am happy to come out here and talk about the race and make some suggestions and give them the support that I gave them from the very beginning, no longer as a president of the UCI but a moral support is there from me. Whatever assistance I can give this week, talking to politicians etc. I will do so.