At issue is whether current UCI President Pat McQuaid can go forward with his nominations from Thailand and Morocco and compete against British rival Brian Cookson in the Sept. 27 election. The organization's rules state a nomination must come from "the federation of the candidate."
McQuaid was unable to secure support from his home Irish federation or Switzerland, where he lives. That forced him to seek support from other governing bodies to stand election.
"This isn't for one candidate versus the other," USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson told AP in a phone interview Monday. "It's really to just better define the election process."
Federations from the U.S., Russia, Finland, Canada and Algeria sent a letter Monday to the UCI, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The letter asks the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rule on which federations may submit a valid nomination for a prospective candidate.
"There have been a lot of concerns raised over the nature of the activities leading up to the election, up to this point," Johnson said. "That includes re-interpretation, ad hoc, of some long-standing election policies in a manner that suits one candidate over the other, and questions have been raised over whether that's ethical but also whether it's legal."
Several national governing bodies have expressed concerns that UCI staff may have breached protocol by helping Malaysian officials draft a rule amendment allowing any two member countries to propose a candidate and to apply it retroactively for the current contest.
That amendment will be voted upon when the UCI convenes in Florence, Italy. Then the 42-voter electoral college will be charged with choosing the president by secret ballot.
"I can totally understand the desire by a number of national federations to seek clarity on the UCI constitution in relation to the nominating procedure and how this applies to the current presidential election," Cookson said in a statement released Monday.
"Given the nature of the controversy, it does make sense to have this matter adjudicated by CAS so that we can have a sound and fair election that is also genuinely robust."
McQuaid has already had his reputation damaged by the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping affair. More revelations of an endemic culture of doping while the UCI was led by McQuaid's mentor and predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, have cast the governing body in a negative light.
"If you look at the stakeholder information, a survey was performed last fall, and the results were published by the UCI, and first and foremost on the list of concerns was restoring credibility in the organization," Johnson said. "We believe this is a great time to draw a line in the sand."
There is much at stake for McQuaid, who is seeking a third four-year term as president. He would also give up his International Olympic Committee membership if the presidency is lost.
Johnson is hopeful that CAS will rule ahead of the election on whether McQuaid's candidacy is valid. That could prevent potential legal challenges afterward should he win the vote.
"Mr. McQuaid himself keeps mentioning the fact that he would like an open and fair democratic election, and we absolutely agree," Johnson said. "To have such an election be legitimate, it has to follow the rules."