ROME (AP) — Embattled UCI president Pat McQuaid remains defiant, claiming he has support from "all five continents" as he seeks re-election next week, adding that he is "very assured" he will win another four-year term as head of cycling's governing body.
McQuaid is waging a bitter campaign battle with British cycling official Brian Cookson, who has pledged to rebuild the sport's image and governance after the Lance Armstrong doping affair that has stained McQuaid's two-term tenure.
"I know these presidents of national federations very well and they know the work I've done for them and with them and they support me," McQuaid said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday from his office in Switzerland. "So I will be very assured that I will get the required number of votes."
The vote at the world championships in Florence on Sept. 27 will be a secret ballot of the 42-member UCI electoral college. A simple majority of 22 votes is required for victory.
The voting congress will be held in Florence's historic Palazzo Vecchio.
Cookson has been striking an equally confident note, especially after receiving the key backing of the European Cycling Union (ECU), and announced earlier this week he thinks he'll win with a majority "at least in the high 20s."
"We'll have to wait until next Friday whether or not all the votes go behind him," McQuaid said. "One of (Cookson's) big supporters is Igor Makarov (the Russian cycling president) and he's very involved with the European federations and he had paid for their travel and accommodation that weekend so it doesn't surprise me that a lot of them voted for Cookson as he would have wished."
It remains unclear if McQuaid has a valid nomination. Federations in his home country, Ireland, and Switzerland, where he lives, withdrew support.
McQuaid claims valid nominations from Thailand and Morocco — although those are dependent on UCI's congress approving changes to the body's statutes before the presidential vote.
"My status is quite clear," McQuaid said. "I know my opposition has tried to spread uncertainty about that. But I've got a clear and valid nomination and I will be standing for re-election next Friday. ... Both came in in time and there is no issue with either one of them."
There were calls for the Court of Arbitration to issue a verdict on McQuaid's status but that did not happen, raising worries that the election results could end up in the courts afterward instead.
"If I lose I'll walk away and shake my opponent's hand and say, 'Good luck,' and I'll start doing something else," McQuaid said. "And I would hope that if I won my opponent would do the same.
"I don't think cycling needs to be brought through the courts for any particular reason," McQuaid added. "Democracy has already been damaged by the activities of some of these people. That's why for me the ultimate democratic decision in cycling is the congress of the UCI and I'm prepared to respect what they decide."
Increasing transparency and stepping up the fight against doping in cycling would be high on Cookson's to-do list if he is voted in.
Armstrong's admittal in January that he doped for most of his stellar career, in which he won the Tour de France a record seven times, further rocked a sport already in desperate need of credibility.
"There has been some very difficult times but I've enjoyed working especially with the developing nations to develop the sport," McQuaid said. "I've set out to change the culture of doping in the sport, which I'm in the process of doing, and that's why I want another four years — to complete that job.
"I don't think we're quite there yet. It is now possible to win races clean. To actually completely change the culture it's going to take a little longer and some other measures than just testing athletes," McQuaid added. "I would like to see that through. ... Then I would happily walk away and say that I've achieved something for the sport of cycling."
Cookson pledges setting up a so-called "truth and reconciliation" commission to encourage riders, team officials and others with knowledge of cycling's doping secrets to come forward.
McQuaid wouldn't make promises for a more lenient attitude toward Armstrong if he explained how he got away with his systematic doping for so long.
"It's not a question of getting an assurance from him. It's a question of us working on details of the process and then offering that process," he said. "And if he wished to come forward within that process — and this is a process we work out with the World Anti-Doping Agency — then he would be most welcome. And any other rider who competed during the period in question."
McQuaid added that he last spoke with Armstrong about a year ago.
McQuaid also said that he is prepared to accept it if the congress rules he can't stand in the election.
"Then I can't run. That's congress' decision," he said. "I would respect that decision."
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