Forget war on doping, Pat McQuaid is happier fighting critics
There was one moment during his hour-long appearance in front of the media yesterday when Pat McQuaid, president of his sport's governing body and once a promising cyclist himself, outlined his reasoning for never having become a pro rider some four decades earlier. It was because, he said, he knew it meant he would have to make a decision whether to dope or not.
Paul Kimmage, the former pro rider turned journalist, tells a story of the moment when he was offered the chance to dope as he lay exhausted on a treatment table during his first Tour de France. He said no, and has since become a persistent campaigner to expose the practice. McQuaid said yesterday the fight against doping was one of the main reasons he sought the UCI presidency seven years ago.
McQuaid and the UCI are currently suing Kimmage. McQuaid insists it has nothing to do with Lance Armstrong or doping, it's simply about defamation. Kimmage claimed the UCI covered up a positive test recorded by Armstrong. No we didn't, say the UCI. They do admit receiving a large donation from Armstrong but insist it is unconnected. They spent $25,000 of the donation on dope tests for junior riders.
The governing body recently won a defamation case against Floyd Landis, a former Tour winner, doper and one of those who gave evidence against Armstrong. He made a similar claim. Landis is not allowed, according to the ruling, to say the UCI are "corrupt, terrorists, fools, full of s***, clowns, liars, no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi."
Nobody sent in the clowns in Aigle, the UCI's Swiss HQ, yesterday but if a man with large feet and a big red nose had taken a seat at the top table he might have gone unnoticed.
The UCI just doesn't seem to get it. "We don't have money like Fifa" was one line of defence laid down by McQuaid for their struggle to combat doping. That means McQuaid and the UCI can see no conflict of interest in accepting donations from riders or teams to aid the fight against doping – a fight McQuaid, incidentally, does not believe can be won.
Nevertheless there is no reason for anyone to resign over all this, McQuaid insisted, pointing out that it didn't happen on his watch – it happened when Hein Verbruggen was in charge, but the honorary president should not resign either.
"It's been a pretty horrific seven years," he said of the incidents of doping he has had to deal with during his tenure. But, hey, what can you do? Except sue.