During the 50th. Preseidential Cycling Tour of Turkey, we had the opportunity to interview the former UCI president Pat McQuaid.
You haven't been president for a year now and there hasn't been a major doping case. Is this, in your view, due to something has changed or, so to say, the investment you made in your time?
It's due to the investment that was made in my turn and now we are reaping the benefits of it. During the 8 years I was president, I had many difficulties, problems with big doping cases, with Floyd Landis, with Vinokourov, Kashechkin, Rasmussen, Operation Puerto... all of these things were during my time.
My objective was to get rid of the doping culture
When I became president, I was aware that there was a culture of doping in cycling and my objective was to get rid of the culture. You can attack doping by testing and testing but that doesn't attack a culture. I wanted to attack the culture of doping as well so I spend my time working on that by introducing new anti-doping measures but also by trying to get the teams accept a new method of working. And I think I've succeeded, by all accounts, a lot of people in the cycling world would say now that the sport is a lot cleaner, there's a new generation that don't want to get involved in doping and, you know, the fact there are no doping cases even last year when I was still president, for me it proves that the work that I have done is paying dividends.
Cycling is number one in testing
Speaking about the doping in cycling, if you look at the WADA statistics which sport tests most etc. cycling is always leading, with most per capita tests..
It's the number one! We are the most progressive, we're the pioneer, we're the first to introduce new tests. Whenever something is made available to us, we would introduce it. In terms of percentages, we do much more testing than any other sport because of the biological passport for which we spent 5 million a year. The UCI spends 5 million a year on anti doping, no other international federation has gone anywhere near that.
The UCI never failed sanctioning an athlete with a positive test
In one way it can get more positive results as you're doing more testing, another way it can prove that you're serious about what you're doing. And if you're spending and investing that sort of money on anti doping you're serious about anti doping. So the arguments which were thrown out against me last election campaign about, you know, that Armstrong said that he had done a deal with UCI on passing the control and he'd got away with it and that the UCI was laxer and laxer over the years, and actually he was talking about before my time as president but my predecessor's, those arguments don't stand, they don't stand at all. Because the UCI never failed, when it had information on an athlete who was positive, to condemn and sanction him. There has never been an athlete who was positive and who has got away from this point of view. People are asking me maybe with Armstrong it was different because he was an icon of sport and a big story with the cancer and the charity... To the UCI, as far as I was concerned it made no difference. The proof of that is, Armstrong wasn't during my period because he retired when I became president in 2005 but even prior to that, the UCI took Marco Pantani out of the Tour of Italy when he was race leader at the start of the final day, because he had broken the rules. So the UCI was prepared to do that, to take an Italian icon out of the Tour of Italy because he'd broken the rules. If UCI had found Armstrong breaking the rules, they would have done the very same thing, sanctioning him.
Do you see yourself as a scapegoat in the case of Armstrong?
Yes, I do a little bit, yes, no doubt.
| Interview with Pat McQuaid|
You say Armstrong was before your period, but you've been actually in the UCI management committee since 1998, you've been head of the road commission.
Yes, but you need to understand that the responsibility of the road commission is junior, women and U23, not elite. So I had nothing to do with Armstrong or elite cycling as a member of the management committee or as the president of road commission. When you say I was a member of the management committee, yes I was, but as a member of management committee you're not involved in day to day business and decision making of the UCI, only the president is, who's a full time role. The management committee meets 3 times a year, agrees on strategy and that's it. So neither me nor my colleagues at the management committee would be familiar with the detail of the day to day operations of our UCI anti doping or Armstrong or anybody else. The same will apply today. The president who has full responsibility but his board members, they don't know what's going on.
Personally, lifetime ban on first offence
In a recent interview Andre Greipel called for jailing dopers. Is it too harsh?
I think it is a little harsh because to jail somebody you'd have to broken the criminal law and doping is not a criminal law. In some countries it is and it can be jailed but it's not something which is a worldwide thing. For me I would be happy if dopers are just thrown out of sport and they don't come back.
First time offence?
Yes, even first time offence, personally, first time offence, out and don't come back. That'll be my opinion. Lifetime ban from the beginning. But unfortunately it's not the WADA code. An international federation has to follow the WADA code. The WADA code is, 2 years, 4 years etc. and the reason for that is that in today's society an athlete thrown out of sport would go straight to a lawyer. The lawyer would come back and would call human rights and so on and the federation is not allowed to do that. They are legal implications, it has to be proportionate and sports law has to fit in to a large extent with natural law as well.
Communications of the UCI was probably not the best
Would you agree, at least partly, that the PR aspect of your presidency was a little weak? The first thing Brian Cookson did, was to hire the Vero Communications which also managed his campaign.
You're probably right, it's probably true. The communications of the UCI was probably not the best. It could've been better. The problem was that the UCI is like a government. It's a government of sport and like all governments and institutions their PR can be questionable. Even though a lot of governments appoint spin doctors to look at these issues, as president of the UCI I wasn't prepared to spend money on several spin doctors and PR companies to manage the PR of the UCI. Maybe it was a fault, but I was too busy dealing with the sport rather than with the communications and the image of the UCI.
WADA and USADA didn't follow their own rules
Looking back to the back and forth mails with USADA, putting them onto the homepage, do you regret it or do you think that these actions have harmed the UCI's reputation as the governing body of a sport like cycling?
A very good question, I think those actions harmed the image of the UCI, yes, but I don't think they harmed UCI as the governing body of cycling because I think the UCI has always to follow the principles of true and correct justice. In those situations you're talking about, the UCI was writing letters to WADA and WADA had put them on their homepage but the UCI was insisting that the law, the WADA code to be followed and proper civil justice to be administered. And the UCI felt that wasn't happening.
The UCI felt very strongly that they had jurisdiction on Armstrong case because they were the first to be informed and according to the rules the federation first to be informed has jurisdiction and we were the first to be informed. We opened up the case by writing to 5 different national federations telling them this information is given to us about an athlete in your country, can you investigate it? and this actually happened. The problem which we felt was that USADA and WADA was so hell-bent on the witch-hunt, that they weren't prepare to allow the UCI to deal with the judicial process as it should have happened. So we wrote strong letters to WADA and USADA outlining our position but they didn't accept them. They put a different view on it and to my mind sitting here to this day, they didn't follow their own rules.
On Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The truth and reconciliation commission of the UCI, what's your view on it?
Well, first of all it is a commission that was forced upon us by the WADA. It was Dick Pound and Travis Tyler, the head of USADA, those were the first 2 people to talk about and publicly mentioned that the UCI needs to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the doping practices of the past. I have to admit it was forced upon us by WADA and for political reasons I was prepared to do it. It was in my campaign if I was elected I would set up the commission, I was dealing with WADA in advance of the election last year in setting up a commission but then they said this is too close to UCI elections, we don't want to be involved in UCI politics so we're not making any decisions on this. Let's wait until the election You know they said they're out of politics but to my mind they're actually entering the politics with that decision.
My personal opinion is that the UCI, nor the sport of cycling, nor sport in general doesn't need a commission costing 3 million, CHF whatever it is, to find out, to indicate or to prove that in the late 80s and 90s cycling was riddled with EPO use. We know that! Because, in those days, there was a product on the market, which was undetectable. This product wasn't on the banned list there was no test for it and athletes were using it, not just for cycling but for other endurance sports as well. We don't need a commission to tell us that that was the case that 95% of the peloton was using EPO, but you know it's happening.
What we could've done was that an independent commission, much smaller, maybe even made of some people from PwC or one of these outside firms to study the accusations which were made against the UCI and which the media really kept ramping and ramping up: like the 99 cortisone, like the 2001 Tour de Suisse, like the positive that UCI is supposed to have hidden on Lance Armstrong, and the donations... those 4-5 points on which the UCI has continuously been attacked as being complicit with Armstrong. Somebody could've done that, studied all information around those different subjects and come up with a report. And I am sure that report would've said that the UCI did all that it could do in the fight against doping, that the UCI was not complicit with Armstrong or anybody else, that Armstrong has never had a positive test so there was no positive test to hide. If Lance Armstrong has said to his team mates that UCI has hidden a positive test for him then you have to wonder why did he say it. And the reason he said it was a bravado thing so that his team mates could use doping thinking if they got caught positive Lance Armstrong could fix it with the UCI. A report looking at those 4-5 things would've been sufficient and it wouldn't cost 3 million, as this current one is.
I assume you didn't have contact to Armstrong lately?
No, last time I have spoken to him was August 2012, not long before the USADA report came out.
Some sponsors turned a blind eye and got good publicity
Would you say that for a long period sponsors have agreed or turned a blind eye regarding doping?
I wouldn't say all sponsors but some sponsors certainly have turned a blind eye and they took a very commercial approach and were happy to get results and not ask how those results were gained.
Did doping in cycling scare potential sponsors?
Some was scared, some came into the sport because of it. Some used the sport for authority, the best example of that is the 1998 Tour de France, the Festina affair. I started it in Dublin, I organized it. The sales of Festina watches in 1998 went up because they were involved in controversy and they got coverage all over the place. So the sponsor was quite happy. Another watch company in Denmark took Michael Rasmussen as a member of the team and Rasmussen is a controversial figure in cycling and a controversial figure in Denmark. You can say that there is a certain amount of getting publicity because of that.
But overall I think, certainly the sport has suffered because of not just the Lance Armstrong affair but because of Operation Puerto, and Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, and you know Vinokourov and Rasmussen... There is a period of 4-5 years, all during my presidency that these major issues were being dealt with and that definitely turns some sponsors away. Sponsors like food companies for example wouldn't commit to cycling because they wouldn't want to be associated with a sport which is associated with doping heavily.
However, I think that has changed, today the landscape is much better. Cycling always has been a commercial and professional sport and always, $ for $ the best investment a sponsor can make. Because the return you get is much greater than the investment, hours and hours of television. A sponsor could pay 10 million to sponsor a cycling team for a year. In one event alone, the Tour de France, they get double the return of that 10 million. So the sports marketing experts would tell you that cycling is best value for a sponsor. I think the situation is today that a lot of sponsors would commit to the sport because they now see it as a sport which is not linked necessarily with doping, although I have to say the sport still has to spend some time on regaining credibility.
No conflict of interest with my role at the UCI and my sons working in cycling
You come from a cycling family, more actually from a family who is involved in cycling as a business as well, starting with the Nissan Classic which ran from 1985 to 1993. You have been involved in cycling management as well with the company L'Evenement which took Tour de France to Ireland in 1998. Your sons are involved in doing business in cycling as well, with you as the president of the UCI. Don't you think there was a conflict of interest?
No, not at all, absolutely not at all. Because my background as an organizer gives me experience, plus the time I spent as a national coach, plus the time I spent as a bike rider plus the time I spent growing up in a family talking about cycling... all of those things helped me as president of the UCI. I was dealing with sport worldwide and dealing with emerging countries and developing countries. I come from a country which was a developing country of cycling it's not one of the big France, Spain or Italy.
In relation to my 2 sons, one of them is a qualified lawyer and qualified accountant and he manages riders. And he did the manager's exam in UCI as 40-50 other managers did. He has the same access to the UCI staff and buildings and members. Anybody in the cycling family has direct access to the UCI, if they want to contact somebody in the sports or legal department. Anybody as the same access, my son as well.
The other son runs a team, a continental team, has the same access to the UCI road department and legal department if he needs. And they don't have to come through me to ask the questions, just do it themselves. So I don't think there is a conflict of interest.
However another aspect of it was, having two sons on the ground, in two different areas, one in the area of rider management, and on the other side I have a son running a continental team which competes in Europe and in Asia, I can get feedback from them about what's happening on the ground which did help me in dealing with these issues in the UCI. I could hear from my son who runs a continental team who would go to a race in Asia and the organizer, when he invites them , promises them that he'd pay for hotels and transport etc. and when they get there they present an invoice and the organizer says look, before you leave I'll give you the money . And at the end of the race the organizer doesn't pay the money. He tells me that this is going on and for me this is useful because I can go to the road department and can say there are organizers out there making deals with teams for events and they're not paying. Follow this up! So there is a positive thing that having somebody involved in this sport on the ground but conflict of interest? I mean the work of the president of the UCI does no way conflicts with the work of a manager of athletes or of a team manager.
People, my enemies, used it against me, yes, my enemies stated conflict of interest, but I mean, look at who they've elected now. President they've elected now was on the board of Team SKY, he has a son working in Team SKY and he's president of the UCI now. So you can ask even deeper questions of conflict of interest there.
| Interview with Pat McQuaid|
New division system is going to be a disaster for the sport
You have initiated a reform of road cycling divisions. It has been discussed recently. Don't you think that the anticipated changes would make it difficult for small organizers to find sponsorship and get access to the media, hence widen the gap between the big and not so big races?
It will do, I agree with you. I initiated a reform of road cycling to try to take out of the system what wasn't working efficiently and what people weren't understanding. And people didn't understand the point system and they said the point system was inequitable and unfair. I initiated what was called common ground, let's get all the stakeholders and have some meetings and find some common ground among the stakeholders. The idea was that we would end up with a calendar, where everybody agreed on the right direction to go.
Unfortunately I think it's gone too far. Up to the elections in 2013, it was still only in discussion, it was still in working groups, meetings, at that point of time before the elections I hadn't seen any final draft what this was looking like. Once the congress was over the working groups continued and continued and they pressed on and pressed on and produced this template of what the future calendar is going to be, and I agree completely with you.
It would affect Tour of Turkey as well...
I think it will. I think it's going to be disaster for the sport. I think it's going to affect sponsorship, I completely disagree with reducing team numbers down to 20 riders. Because for me, if a sponsor wants to afford 40 riders, I think he could afford a team riding in World Tour races, a team riding in Europe Tour and a team riding in Asia Tour
He can mix those riders a little bit from time to time, then it's great, because the sponsor gets publicity and exposure in the market he wants to be in and the sport is benefiting.
What the UCI is trying to do with this new thing is to restrict and restrict. At the end of the day when you look at the two tier A and B World Tour calendar, the A level is all the events of one organizer, more or less, ASO. So the big organizer controls the big races and gets stronger and stronger, guaranteed all the best teams and best riders, the ones in the 2nd tier or in the tier below that aren't guaranteed anything. I think it's a potential catastrophe, more harm than good.
On his life in cycling
You have raced, organized races, became UCI president... What's the deepest cut, so to say, looking back on this journey?
For me as a cyclist as an athlete being one of the best athletes in my country, something I'll always remember, I was national champion in 1974, I won the Tour of Ireland in 75-76, Sean Kelly was in the team with me both in these years as a team mate. Naturally those were the things I remember most.
Then when I went into coaching and managing I brought an Irish Team to the Olympic games who competed very successfully in road racing in Los Angeles. They didn't win medals but they finished very well up in the field and they got a good result. Then organizing the Nissan Classic which was a huge event in Ireland at the time, a bit like the Tour of Turkey here now. And other big events organized in Ireland in England when I was working for a period of 10-12 years. The 98 Tour de France in Ireland was a huge project that I started working on in 1993 and continued through 1998. Then getting on the board of UCI and using all my experience in particular from my own racing days from my days of organizing events from my days with the national team, in the role of the president of the road commission, because as I said, the RC was junior, women and U23,
You introduced the women's World Cup...
Women's World Cup yes, using that experience because I had a deep interest in development. I enjoyed the 8 years working on that and then I became president. I enjoyed being able to influence the development of the sport in a global way and that was in pushing the globalization of the sport.
Tour of Turkey is a prime example, a couple of journalists that are here said to me when they saw me oh we're surprised to see you, we haven't heard from you since Florence last year, we didn't know what you were doing and now you turn up at the Tour of Turkey. Why are you here? and I said well, the reason I'm here is that 5 years ago as president of the UCI I had a meeting with the then new president and the then new general secretary of the Turkish Federation, Emin (Muftuoglu) and Abdurrahman (Acikalin).
They came to the UCI offices in Switzerland and introduced themselves, we would like to improve Turkish cycling, we are ambitious, we want to do things, Turkish cycling has been stagnant for years, we want to do something and one thing we really want to do is regenerate the ToT which was already 45 years old but has been a low level race. Can you help us? and I said what do you want me to do? They said the first thing you could do is to come to Istanbul to meet our political masters and if you as president of the UCI could tell them the importance of cycling then it would be good for us I said certainly, when do you want me to come?
It was in April of that year, couple of months later, I came to Istanbul and met the sports minister and various others and talked to them about cycling, the way the sport of cycling is growing worldwide and about the Tour of Turkey and how it can be good for tourism and sports of Turkey and compared it with another event I worked on which is the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia, it was set up by the prime minister Dr Mahathir at the time, to promote Malaysia. I said you can do the same in Turkey. After that the government committed to supporting the event and every year since then the organizers have invited me to the race because of the support and assistance I've given them. I never had the opportunity because I've always been too busy. Now I'm not so busy and that's why I came this year.
On Tour of Turkey and globalization
What you think about the race?
I really enjoyed, liked what I see. I think today's stage was a new departure for Tour of Turkey. They did it last year as well, but to have a stage like this with a mountain top finish, a really good mountain stage, is magnificent. The balance of the stage, the structure, from an athletic or sporting point of view it was perfect today, as good as any stage would be on Tour de France. And it makes the event very credible. It's not just an event of sprints and flat stages which it was the first couple of years. This has now become a real athletic event, a really important, credible cycling event.
I am very impressed by what I see, very impressed by the level of professionalism of the whole organization and how they deal with the teams, the structure of the starts, design of the finishes, the security along the road is absolutely top class, as good, if not better than the Tour de France.
The reception it gets from the people, every little village we got through, took people out to the race and there were banners of welcoming the race. Even the mountain top finish today had a huge number of people. I know they may be brought up by the mayors or whatever but the atmosphere was there.
And I think the event has a huge potential. The reason I initially agreed to help Emin and Aburrahman was my conviction, as part of my interest in globalization. Turkey is a country with 70 million people. So for the sport of cycling it's a very important country and Turkish cycling should be very strong sport and they should be very much part of the international family with riders competing in international events in all disciplines and even riders in some of the top teams. Because from the population of 70 million in Turkey there must be some star cyclists. It's the federation's job to try and find them. But I felt that me as the president of the UCI it was my job to help and encourage a federation of a country with 70 million people to develop cycling in that country. Between the Euro-Asia connection and whole thing, I firmly believe it's a country moving forward in sport and cycling should move up with the country. When they came to me and asked for help, immediately I said yes, and I would have said that if any other president of any other country, I didn't just select Turkey, I did it for lots of others.
When you asked about what are the things highlights, one of the things was the globalization of the sport and the satisfaction I got from seeing the sport develop in new countries.
I did a huge amount of work in Africa during my 8 years, in particularly in countries like Eritrea and Rwanda. Last year, to see Berhane fighting out on this stage here, I know he finished second but eventually won the race, I got great thrill to see him race because Berhane came to the UCI training center and we got him into a team and now he's one of the top riders.
The same today, the Ethiopian that was 5th on today's stage (Merhawi Kudus, MTN Qhubeka). Believe me, in another couple of years that guy will be a contender of the Tour de France. And that's because of my wish and desire to open up cycling to countries which can't produce world class athletes and give them the opportunity to come to the African continental centre and then to the UCI international centre and help them among their way into these teams. That's what I've done and we have now Eritreans and Ethiopeans competing at the highest level which was never there before I became president.
Favourite beer :)
Finally, being an Irish man, what's your favourite beer?
Smithwicks, it's not Guiness. After that it's Jameson.