International representatives, after around four hours of arguments in central Florence, elected Brian Cookson as president of cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale. Cookson won 24 of the 42 votes and defeated rival and incumbent President, Pat McQuaid.
“The campaign to get to this point has been intense and I’m under no illusion, the real work starts now,” Cookson said. “We must embrace a new way of doing work. My first priority is to make anti-doping fully independent and to work with WADA to make a swift investigation into cycling’s doping culture.
“I’d like to thank Pat for the contribution he has made to cycling and his long career.” McQuaid replied with a brief “thank you” and “congratulations” before moving the congress on to meeting point 11.
The UCI Congress met in Palazzo Vecchio, the former seat of Italy’s government, among battle paintings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The delegates, after much debating on the process, decided that Cookson should lead cycling out of one of its most turbulent times.
They also moved against a controversial proposal by Malaysia, deciding after 21 to 21 vote that it would not discuss its implementation. The federation proposed earlier this year a new joint nomination process. After Ireland and then Switzerland refused, McQuaid appeared dependent on the duel Thai-Moroccan nomination.
Switzerland’s original move stood, though. The federation revoked its nomination too late into the process, lawyers argued. Federations argued for and against McQuaid’s candidacy for about 30 minutes afterwards.
“It’s unfortunate that the majority of this congress is dedicated to whether or not a candidate can stand,” said a Latvian representative. “We’ve just gone though a difficult period with Lance Armstrong and corruption allegations. We have to be clean, if there is one candidate that is nominated by his federation and congress, and the other is not, that would appear to be a very clear statement.”
Cookson put an end to the arguments. “We’ve had enough of this,” he said. “I propose we go to the election between to candidates.”
Applause filled famous Sala dei Cinquecento. Delegates came forward, one by one, to vote – 24 giving their confidence to Cookson and 18 to McQuaid. Applause immediately filled the air.
McQuaid, 64, replaced out-going president Hein Verbruggen in 2005. Unchallenged, he began his second term in 2009. Doping controversies marked his eight-year run. Last winter, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found Lance Armstrong doped his way trough his career and to seven Tour de France titles. That same investigation highlighted allegations of UCI corruption.
Cookson, president of British Cycling since 1997, announced his candidacy in June and took hold of a growing momentum for change. The 62-year-old said early this morning, “[I have] no baggage. With me, what you see is what you’d get, a committed and dedicated president. We’ve got to restore credibility in the UCI.”