Updated: British Cycling's Brian Cookson to run against Pat McQuaid for UCI Presidency

British Cycling President formally announces his candidacy with a commitment to 'openness and transparency'

by Tony Farrelly   June 4, 2013  

Brian Cookson (copright Britishcycling.org.uk)

British Cycling President Brian Cookson has officially announced that he is running to become the next UCI President, nominated by British Cycling. His statement is reproduced in full at the bottom of this article.

Cookson, who is a member of the UCI's management board, has been instrumental in the revival of British Cycling's fortunes over the last two decades. British Cycling has transformed itself from a ramshackle and amateurish outfit – that often didn't even have enough kit for the riders representing it in international events – to an organisation admired for its slick professionalism far beyond the realms of cycling: it was recently named British Sports Governing Body of the Year.

Cookson says this was achieved "by creating a well run, stable federation governed on the principles of honesty, transparency and clear divisions of responsibility" and he aims to apply the same principles to the sport's governing body. While the current regime has paid lip service to the idea of transparency and openness, many would argue that in reality they are ideas that go very much against the grain of presidencies of Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, who groomed McQuaid as his successor.

Certainly Cookson seems to be in no doubt. "Our international body, the UCI, remains hugely distracted, continuing to flounder in waves of damaging historical controversies", he says in his statement. "For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts with important members of the cycling family and other key stakeholders. This situation is deeply damaging for our sport, and it has severely compromised the UCI’s ability to develop and communicate some of the good work that is happening across the world."

Earlier this year it was suggested by a senior International Olympic Committee official that a Cookson UCI Presidency would be viewed with favour in the higher circles of international sports politics. Those remarks were made in response to rumours in January that Cookson would run against McQuaid - rumours that Cookson denied - pointing out that there was no vacancy and giving his support to the beleaguered UCI President.

One immediate advantage Cookson will have is the backing of his home federation. McQuaid was forced to relay on the Swiss Federation to nominate him as its preferred candidate for UCI President - which he was able to do under residency rules - after the Irish Federation went back on its original decision to nominated him for the post and called an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to discuss the matter later this month.

While it would be impossible for Cookson to run against McQuaid without the backing of British Cycling (McQuaid can only do it because as UCI President he is resident in Switzerland and took the prudent step of becoming a member of his local federation) it is also noteworthy that by backing Cookson British Cycling would be sticking its head above the parapet.

The calculation in Manchester must be that their man stands a good chance of winning. It is reported that Cookson has already been sounding out potential support from other national federations, because in the winner takes all world of cycling politics being caught on the wrong side could prove very costly indeed.

Other cycling federations are said to have viewed Team GB's run of success over the last decade with a mixture of envy and suspicion, but it might well be that the sport's power brokers will take the view that if can't beat them then cycle sport at large could benefit from some of what has made British Cycling such a success.

While a British audience might not like to hear it, in a contested election - that is sure to be dirty - Cookson's close association with British success could be something of a double edged sword. For though they might not shout it there is a firm belief amongst many in the international cycling community British success owes something to cheating. Although such ideas are undoubtedly wide of the mark given cycling's tarnished history people can hardly be blamed for holding them.

Voting in the presidential election takes place in September, so we can look forward to three months of interesting, entertaining and above all bruising campaigning.

Cookson's statement in full

“I am today announcing that I am standing as a candidate for the Presidency of the UCI. I have the full support and nomination of my home federation, British Cycling, and I respectfully ask for the support of the national cycling federations of the world and the whole international cycling family.

I am not doing this lightly as I know how much needs to be done. When I became the President of British Cycling in 1996, the Federation was deeply troubled and close to bankruptcy. Since that time cycling in my country has been transformed beyond recognition. Many wonderful people have helped this process, motivated by a passion to do the best for cycling, and I have been proud to lead them.

This transformation has been achieved, above all, by creating a well run, stable federation governed on the principles of honesty, transparency and clear divisions of responsibility. These principles are even more important  for an international federation.

Cycling has been at the heart of my life for as long as I can remember.  It has shaped my personality as much as it has my professional career, and I will always be grateful for the sheer enjoyment, inspiration and opportunity that cycling has given me.  I still ride my bike almost daily.

Many good things have happened in our sport around the world in recent years, and I am proud that British cyclists and British events such as London 2012 have played their part in showing what a superb sport we have in cycling, in all its diversity.

But the passion I and many others have for cycling cannot hide the fact that our international body, the UCI, remains hugely distracted, continuing to flounder in waves of damaging historical controversies.  For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts with important members of the cycling family and other key stakeholders. This situation is deeply damaging for our sport, and it has severely compromised the UCI’s ability to develop and communicate some of the good work that is happening across the world. 

The stakeholder consultation exercise held this year by the UCI has clearly demonstrated that there are many excellent aspects to the UCI, with much good work underway, but all of this has been severely compromised by the widespread absence of confidence in the integrity of the organisation.

Against this backdrop, and after careful consideration, I have decided to stand for the Presidency of the UCI.  This is because I passionately believe that the UCI needs to embrace a new way of doing things, and address, head on, some of the critical challenges facing our sport.

We must restore cycling’s credibility.  The first priority for the new UCI president must be to change the way that anti doping is managed so that people can have confidence in the sport.  We must also urgently carry out a fully independent investigation into the allegations of corruption in this area which have so damaged the UCI’s reputation.

Cycling is not the only sport with problems but if we don’t have a sport that parents can send their children to with absolute confidence then we are failing. If elected I will devote myself to rebuilding relations with WADA and establishing with them a completely independent body to deal with anti-doping in cycling so that no-one can doubt that it is being tackled without fear or favour. I will also seek their full co-operation in the independent investigation into the UCI’s past.

In the next few weeks, I will publish my manifesto, which will outline clear recommendations to tackle the future challenges for our sport, as well as specific policies to address those problems from the past that still haunt us today.

More broadly, I want to see a UCI whose culture and way of doing things is defined by openness, transparency, and a commitment to more collegiate decision making.  We need to work for the good of cycling globally, and not protect vested interests, wherever they may lie.  The best way we can achieve this is to be much more open on how we operate and make decisions.  In essence, my manifesto will outline how I would build trust in the UCI, and what our vision should be, for the future.

I believe that I have a strong and proven track record in delivering positive change in cycling, and in a way that is collegiate - not confrontational - as my time as President of British Cycling shows.  It is this style of approach that I want to bring to the UCI.

I would be truly honoured to be elected UCI President, but I also understand the magnitude of the challenges we face.  If successful in my campaign, I will do all in my powers to turn my vision of a more open and modern UCI into reality, in full partnership with all the other stakeholders in the sport we love”.

23 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I know nothing of Cookson, but I'm glad that SOMEONE/ANYONE is running against McQuaid. At least there is a choice now

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9362 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 18:47


My outside candidate, pushing McQuaid down into third place:

posted by Argos74 [351 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 19:36


As a patriotic Brit, I can only expect good things from Cookson!

If he has overseen BC into its current successes then it would be interesting to see what he could do on a global scale.

BenMWilliamson's picture

posted by BenMWilliamson [28 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 20:28


Like the manifesto, fingers crossed.

posted by FMOAB [262 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 20:31


Big Grin

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [495 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 20:44


All Hail the British Hegemony, margin gains all round. Is that James Cameron? Surprise

Hedgermon-E? Anyone know how to say this word?

I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1815 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 21:45


Hegemony - He-Gem-Ony

Splitting it down futher

He - Hee (as in Heed)
Gem - Geem (almost said like Jim)
Ony - Onnie (as in Bonnie)

That's how I say it anyway Wink

Listen to it here, I am pretty close http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hegemony

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9362 posts]
3rd June 2013 - 23:34


And here, are both UK and US pronunciations:
Not sure I like the UK one...now to find the Irish and Swiss versions.

posted by Ad Hynkel [78 posts]
4th June 2013 - 0:56


Quick question - wasn't there a question over whether the Swiss federation could nominate McQuaid? Something to do with him being unable to hold a Swiss licence because of his lifetime Irish membership I think. Has that gone away now?

posted by step-hent [718 posts]
4th June 2013 - 7:25


@Step-hent - don't think so, but my understanding is that the Swiss bit is on hold while the Irish federation confirm whether they are nominating him or not. Basically the Irish federation noted that by approaching the Swiss fed, McQuaid had simply bypassed/undermined the Irish fed. So the Swiss have gone respectfully quiet until that is concluded.

It would be great to see Cookson get the gig.

Do you think it's business class flights everywhere and nice hotels?!

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
4th June 2013 - 9:03


Did a bit of googling and found it. See here:


If you click on 'read more' it talks about how McQuaid has an Irish licence for 2013 and therefore can't hold a Swiss one. That would make his Swiss nomination ineffective, since he can't be a member of the Swiss federation.

posted by step-hent [718 posts]
4th June 2013 - 9:13


The dark lord McQuaid may be running into some trouble with his dual Swiss/Irish CI membership


mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [303 posts]
4th June 2013 - 9:21


What can the cycling community do to ensure Cookson becomes President of the UCI...?

Cycling Blog: www.amanonabike.co.uk
Twitter: @amanonabike

nemysys's picture

posted by nemysys [52 posts]
4th June 2013 - 11:43


Excellent - about time McQuaid left his job. Too many scandals have gone on with him in charge, as well as that whole screwed up independent tribunal system that died farcically last year.

If Cookson wins, I think he'll do it by only a single vote or two - just the marginal gain he needs for success. I wish him luck. It's a hell of a job to win it, and worse if he actually gets it! Let's hope the pay is good.

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
4th June 2013 - 12:43


You would hope - now that there's a genuine contender and not some wannabee from a dodgy east european state with an eye for business class flights, swanky hotels and loadsa expenses - that a lot of other cycle unions, especially Ireland, would back our man Cookson.

www.mombee.com - Muddy bikes, Road bikes and Family rides in the South West

posted by Mombee [83 posts]
4th June 2013 - 12:58


nemysys wrote:
What can the cycling community do to ensure Cookson becomes President of the UCI...?

If the Irish won't nominate him for re-election, and the Swiss can't (see dual-membership comments above), then the whole thing may already be resolved.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
4th June 2013 - 13:51


Really pleased to see the man responsible for the progress in British Cycling is not sitting back and enjoying the benefits of what he has achieved but is prepared to go up against the system.

I hope he wins, as a Brit, a member of British Cycling and as a cyclist; but I have a concern.

If McQuaid manages to get the nomination of the Swiss, as the Irish obviously don't want to give him theirs, then he'll be calling in all the favours he and Verbruggen have handed out over their terms as President. When it's one country one vote there will be countries who have an interest in maintaining the status quo for their benefit and McQuaid may already have enough 'in his pocket' that he'll get back in.

I sincerely hope not and said above Brian Cookson will only need one vote more than Pat to take the job.

This could be a very messy and revealing campaign, deck chair and biscuits are ready. Smile

Done Nightrider 2013, 2014 and 2015 for Parkinson's UK. Next year Ride London

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [663 posts]
4th June 2013 - 14:49


I've done this a lot recently, but have you seen that Lance Armstrong has retweeted David Walsh in support of Brian Cookson?

We're going through the looking glass aren't we?

posted by farrell [1943 posts]
4th June 2013 - 16:33


Whilst we await the outcome of the CIreland debate/EGM - this is great news to all however it does have a VERY sharp double edge.

I know many clubs in Ireland who would prefer an Irish president over others and would hope that sport comes first rather than the old us versus them scenario which could be increased by the British effect of Cookson's standing forward.

Its fair comment to also say that many countries feel suspicious of the british sucess also but lets get as far as Pat being dumped out of the running as that will increase Cookson's chances by a long way.

This will then bring an end to Heins influence at the forefront but he is still an honarary member of whatever board they let him sit on, remember its not Pat thats doing things wrong, he is just a puppet.

I also hope that Cookson will realise how Pat can still be used for good in the development of international cycling, as many see the Irish as more neutral than the British, though there are many other countries id be more worried about political clashes.

posted by Farky [186 posts]
4th June 2013 - 16:37


McQuaid only cares about maintaining his current and enriched lifestyle, which the presidency would give him. Even people with the thickest of skins would have realised that they had become so unpopular they needed to resign and disappear. If McQuaid truly cared about the sport and its integrity he would have gone a long time ago.

Mr Cookson has my full support and I wish him the best of luck.

posted by Critchio [144 posts]
4th June 2013 - 18:50


I'd prefer to see a complete outsider. Someone from another sport who doesn't care about treading on toes and is media friendly (i.e. answers questions).

Cannondale Supersix Evo US Champ Edition - Campy Super Record
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posted by mike_ibcyclist [57 posts]
4th June 2013 - 21:15


The first sensible thing would be to get the UCI out of Switzerland to somewhere that its governance and financial affairs are more openly reported. Not sure where though? A quick Google says England! WhahaY! Can only be a good thing for Pat to go. And Hein too fwiw.

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
5th June 2013 - 11:36


Thank goodness there's an opposing candidate.

Having said that though, International sporting organisations are a carpet baggers dream; all about who you know, not what you know. Not sure Cookson will be any different to anyone else as connections are what matter at that level and many countries (mostly residing in the Second/Third Worlds/E|merging Nations) won't support a British candidate; too much history/politics. Take a look at the big players; FIFA, IOC, IAAF and even the governing body for Chess, are run by people from politically Neutral, or Third World/Emerging nations. There may be good reason for it but it doesn't reduce cronyism and corruption. Fingers crossed Cookson gets support and we see the back of Pat.

posted by BigBear63 [79 posts]
5th June 2013 - 14:03