by Neil Browne
Who is the puppet master?
In another slap to the face of the current UCI President Pat McQuaid, Irish Cycling would not endorse their fellow countryman for re-election. Typically your own country’s endorsement is a slam-dunk. Earlier, Irish Cycling rubber stamped their approval of McQuaid. However, board member Anthony Moran challenged the vote. Irish Cycling called an Extraordinary General Meeting and in an about-face, voted against endorsing McQuaid. Now he was forced to use the Swiss cycling federation as a means of keeping his presidential nomination alive. The reason he can ask the Swiss for a nomination is Switzerland has been his place of residency.
But over the weekend things took a turn for the worse for Mr. McQuaid. Mike Plant, a member of the UCI Management Committee announced that he couldn’t support McQuaid’s nomination. It was reported that Plant dropped on the UCI Management table a secret dossier of evidence against the Irishman.
I emailed Mr. Plant asking what was in the dossier, does he endorse McQuaid’s presidential rival Brian Cookson, and if not Cookson - who? Plant responded, but didn't answer my question. Instead I got the same stock response he had given every other media outlet. But that has me wondering - what the heck is in that dossier?
McQuaid has already been accused of looking the other way with Lance Armstrong’s positive drug results. What else could Plant have on Pat? Black and white photos of him burying dead hitchhikers in the desert? McQuaid in a secret meeting with the Illuminate plotting a One World Order? Drinking Michelob Ultra? There are so many possibilities...
Monday UCI presidential candidate Cookson tweeted
“I will unveil my campaign manifesto for the UCI Presidency on Monday, June 24th, in Paris. Very proud of the work that has gone into it.”
I for one am curious what Mr. Cookson’s manifesto will contain. Before we all jump aboard the Cookson Express and ride it to Aigle let’s keep in mind that he had, in the past, endorsed McQuaid. Also let’s look at Mr. Plant.
Mr. Plant is a very successful man. Not only does he sit on the UCI Management Committee, he was appointed president of the U.S. Speedskating board, a member of USA’s 1980 Olympics team, and is Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Atlanta Braves. Basically if you want summer or winter Olympic tickets Mr. Plant is your guy.
According to a blog post written by Les Ernest, a former board member of USA Cycling, Plant was part of the takeover of USA Cycling by Thom Weisel, owner of Tailwind Sports, which also owned the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team. Mr. Weisel’s “USAC Development Foundation” helped USA Cycling crawl out of the financial hole, but with the agreement that USAC Development Foundation Executive Director Steve Johnson was installed as Chief Operating Officer. There are not that many degrees of separation between Johnson and Weisel, owner of a team that has been called one of the most organized and systematic in doping.
Plant may have thrown a live grenade on McQuaid’s chance of re-election, but does he have something up his sleeve? Does Plant perhaps know even more dirty Armstrong secrets that could go back to Hein Verbruggen’s days as UCI President? Does the removal of McQuaid help Plant keep those skeletons in the closet? It’s an interesting exercise to try and guess where the strings of connections could go.
Plant said in a statement regarding his decision to flick McQuaid for nomination,
“This is a critical turning point in the history of our sport, and strong, credible leadership has never been more important. The impact of the decisions being made today will be felt for generations to come.”
“What the sport of cycling needs most at this crucial time in its history is to be guided by a consistent set of values. This isn’t a time for self-interest; this is a time for doing what is in the best interest of the sport.”
“That’s my primary objective for the sport I have been a part of for 40 years. I learned long ago that ethics and integrity cannot be situational; they must be constant and unwavering.”
I truly hope that Mr. Plant’s words are sincere. However, looking at the cast of characters pulling the strings, we might be replacing a president who made stupid mistakes and thought he was untouchable to one smarter to keep the status quo. Mike Plant might be leading another successful coup, this time on an international level instead of domestic.
Speaking of Olympics, Spain is trying to change the opinion that it is easy on drug cheats. As RoadCycling.com reported last week, Spain passed a law that “Includes the expansion of doping tests for athletes to night hours (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and costly fines for those who deal in doping substances. It also creates a new national anti-doping agency with greater autonomy and an additional focus on the health of athletes.”
This all sounds good and the new law isn’t a coincidence. Spain is competing to become the host country for the 2020 Olympics. Cleaning up their tarnished reputation as a safe haven for doping (that’s why Armstrong and company pulled up stakes from France and moved south) is necessary to get the Olympic nod. But here’s the kicker - doping still isn’t against the law in Spain, just a sports violation to be dealt with by the proper sports federation.
The Operation Puerto case finally ended and remarkably the judge on the case wanted the blood bags disposed of so no athletes’ identities would be exposed.
This new Spanish law is a first step in a new era of clean sports, but Spain is still too afraid of reaching into their not too distant past to expose the cheats. If we’ve learned anything from the Armstrong scandal is that no secret is safe. Eventually it all comes out. Keeping it buried only lets it stagnate. Spain - it’s time to stop hiding the truth. To be taken seriously on the world’s sporting stage this new law needs to be one step along a path of cleaning up doping.
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