July 30 - A new row has erupted in the battle for the leadership of the International Cycling Union (UCI) after a proposed rule-change emerged which could ease Pat McQuaid's chances of retaining his position as President.
Despite a current rule being in place which states that the Presidential candidates must be nominated by their national federations, the Malaysian's amendment proposes that candidates should instead be able to be proposed by any two federations.
In line with that, the Moroccan and Thai federations have said that Irishman McQuaid is now a member, and has their backing.
While this rule change will be voted upon at the UCI Congress in Florence on September 27, just before the President is elected, it would be backdated if successfully introduced.
This would mean that the amendment would apply to the current election campaign, which has already passed the standard closing date for nominations.
"The efforts to change the nomination and electoral process are a clear sign of desperation from the incumbent President, Pat McQuaid," said Cookson.
"This latest twist appears to be nothing more than a fraught attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally impact on the process while it is underway.
"It is no wonder that many in the cycling family as well as fans and sponsors have lost faith in the UCI to govern ethically when the man at the top of the organisation is prepared to embarrass an entire sport in an attempt to try and cling onto power."
Details of the proposed change emerged as it was confirmed that legal action against McQuaid's nomination by the Swiss Cycling Federation were continuing.
The Swiss had nominated McQuaid after he was rejected by Cycling Ireland on the basis that as a full-time resident in Switzerland he was a member of their Federation.
But Swiss Cycling's member, Kurt Buergi and colleagues Mathias Galli and Patrick Calcagni are pursuing a challenge to the Federation's endorsement of McQuaid during its meeting in May on the basis that the endorsement was unconstitutional and made without proper authority.
The claimants are now due to file their full statement of claim by next Tuesday (August 6), with the respondent filing a full statement of defence by August 16.
The main hearing, during which McQuaid will be called to testify, is scheduled to take place in Zurich on August 22.
The costs of the court case are being part-funded by the sportswear firm Skins, whose chief executive Jaimie Fuller launched the campaign group Change Cycling Now.
Mike Plant, the American who sits on the UCI's Management Committee, has condemned the move to change rules as "unconscionable, unethical, dishonest, unprofessional, manipulative and destructive" in an e-mail to Christophe Hubschmid, general director of the world governing body.
He added: "One month ago, we received the results of the stakeholder study.
"Over 7,000 respondents overwhelmingly told us that we must restore the credibility in the UCI and the leadership.
"For the life of me, I cannot see how making this significant change to the nomination process, on the morning of the election, will do anything less than further destroy the current reputation and credibility of how this organisation is currently being governed and managed."
Cookson has also complained to Hubschmid about the proposed rule change.
"It is surely completely out of order to allow a proposal to change an electoral procedure, once that procedure is underway," he said.
"These proposals should never have been permitted onto the agenda, let alone given the validity of acceptance for the current election, especially considering that the UCI Management Committee have not even had the opportunity to discuss the matter.
"In addition to this, which I can only describe as an attempt to change the rules during the game, I note with astonishment that Pat McQuaid is now shown on the election papers as being nominated by three federations.
"The Constitution is quite clear that candidates should be nominated by their own federation. Pat is shown with the designation 'IRL' next to his name but, as is well known, Cycling Ireland withdrew his nomination.
"There is certainly no provision in the Constitution, as it now stands, for nomination by more than one federation.
"This is even more astonishing as I, as a properly nominated candidate, have not been given the opportunity to seek nomination by federations other than my own.
"It now also appears that any two national federations are to be allowed to make further nominations for the Presidency before a new deadline of 30th August.
"Even though under the provisions of the UCI Constitution nominations actually closed on 30th June.
"What sort of organisation attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun - it smacks of attempted dictatorship.
"It seems to me that, at best, all of this is bringing the validity and impartiality of the terms and conditions of the electoral process into serious question.
"At worst, this is beginning to look like a concerted attempt to manipulate the election in an undemocratic and unconstitutional way.
"I know that other members of the Management Committee share my concerns and this will be expressed directly to the UCI director general.
"The fight for a democratic and transparent process is now on and the choice for the voters has never been clearer."
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