Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has launched a scathing attack on the current occupant of the post, Brian Cookson, and has also described the report of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), published last month, as “scandalously biased” and a waste of money.
The Dutchman, aged 73, also claims that the UCI is in reality being run by director general Martin Key and says Cookson avoids confrontation whenever possible. He also said he will fight any attempt to strip him of his title of honorary president of the governing body.
Verbruggen, who occupied the presidency from 1991 to 2005 when he was succeeded by Pat McQuaid, made his claims in a long and somewhat rambling letter sent to all current members of the UCI management committee, a copy of which was obtained by Belgian newspaper De Morgen.
But Cookson, who ordered the CIRC report shortly after his election to the UCI’s top job in September 2013, insists that he would continue with his programme of reforming the sport and would not be drawn into a public row with Verbruggen.
The latter, together with McQuaid, was among 174 people interviewed by the CIRC panel, which returned a damning verdict on their stewardship of the sport including that the governing body “defended” and “protected” disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, giving him preferential treatment despite “strong reason to suspect” he was cheating.
In his letter, Verbruggen describes the report as an example of “character assassination” and appeals to the members of the management committee “that, should you be asked to take decisions that affect me … you will seek to ensure that I am informed and given the opportunity to express my view before any decision is taken.”
Among other things, he attacked the report as being incomplete and said he is having it analysed by lawyers in Switzerland, claiming it is biased, is based in part on testimony by people who were at the time in conflict with the UCI, and that some of its conclusions lack factual basis.
He warned Cookson that he is “in for a surprise if he thinks that I will accept this scandalously biased CIRC-report and the same goes for taking away my honorary title,” adding that he would view any such move as a “a ‘sanction’ and I will NOT accept being sanctioned, especially not by such a person as Mr Cookson!
“Be aware that the UCI should be prepared to face legal action against any sanction imposed on me based on either Mr Cookson declaring me a ‘dictator’, or on the clearly biased CIRC report.
He also accused the current president of avoiding meeting him, saying it was “rather comical to see how Mr Cookson does literally everything possible to not meet me face to face at any occasion where we are both present.
“I'm afraid I have to conclude that straightforward and courageous confrontation is not his best quality.”
In response to the claims, Cookson said: "I think Mr Verbruggen's letter speaks for itself. Those who have read the CIRC report will understand where the UCI went wrong in the past, including the conflicts it needlessly got into and which seriously damaged its credibility.
"I was elected to change the way the UCI conducts itself and I won't be drawn into this kind of public conflict," he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.