Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi threw his full support behind embattled UCI president Patrick McQuaid in a bizarre and curious alliance that confused journalists and political analysts alike.
“We dictators must stick together. We shall destroy these infidels. Vaughters is a capitalist dog and that Italian Zomegnan is a traitor I would gladly torture myself,” said the Libyan leader.
Libyan state television broadcast video footage of Colonel Qaddafi speaking to a crowd of people at his Tripoli compound. “Nothing scares me,” he bellowed to his enthusiastic followers. They held up large photos of both Qaddafi and McQuaid.
“I am here, I am here, I am here,” he added defiantly. “And so is McQuaid.”
The London Times reports that McQuaid has received several phone calls from Qaddafi. The UCI president is trying to prevent pro-democracy forces within the sport of cycling from gaining power. “Mr. Qaddafi has offered automatic weapons, an elite commando unit and four MIG-17’s from the Okba Ben Nafi Air Base,” said a Libyan military advisor . “He sees McQuaid as an ally in trouble.”
For his part, the unpopular UCI president welcomed the support. “It was a generous offer, one we’re taking quite seriously. Qaddafi is passionate about cycling and has no wish to see the sport destroyed by rebels and blackmail,” said McQuaid. “We also talked about doubling the budget for the Tour of Libya stage race.”
McQuaid is in a bitter power struggle with riders, team managers and sponsors who are demanding a meaningful voice in how the sport is structured and how decisions are made. Jonathan Vaughters and Giro boss Angelo Zomegnan are rumored to be planning a breakaway league to replace the UCI if their demands are not addressed. Eleven professional cycling teams are believed to be ready to leave the UCI to join the new venture.
Qaddafi has apparently found common cause with McQuaid and is particularly enraged that nearby Qatar has joined the coalition forces and that Qatari jets are flying combat missions into Libya. “The Tour of Qatar is a joke, it is shit under my boot. How dare they attack me or compare that pathetic stage race to my illustrious Tour of Libya,” said Qaddafi. “McQuaid promised to cancel their race and put my race in their spot on the calendar,” shouted Qaddafi.
The Libyan leader’s odd alliance with UCI president McQuaid has sparked plenty of debate. “It’s not as crazy as it seems,” said Robert Ellison, an expert in Middle Eastern policy at Georgetown University. “Qaddafi has no friends in the governments of Europe but now in McQuaid, he has a president, a governing figure supporting his cause. McQuaid is a bridge, a way to open dialogue in the West.”
The Obama administration is struggling to gain control of the international coalition and define the military role in Libya. McQuaid adds another piece to an already confusing political puzzle that’s fraught with dangers. “Obviously, McQuaid has no tactical forces, there’s no military component to his involvement with Qaddafi,” said General Chuck Abrahms. “What concerns us is what McQuaid is telling Qaddafi. Is he feeding the fire? We just don’t know at this point.”
Opponents to McQuaid’s autocratic rule reacted with surprise and caution to the news of Qaddafi’s involvement. “Did we envision that Libya’s dictator would play a role in our discussions with McQuaid? No, of course not,” said Jonathan Vaughters. “But at the end of the day, whether it’s one dictator or two doesn’t really change our strategy.”
Qaddafi announced on state radio in a major speech that he fully supports the ban on race radios. “No one speaks unless I say. I control the radio in Libya. It is McQuaid’s right as all powerful UCI president to silence critics and confiscate radios,” said Qaddafi.