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Cookson "frustrated" over Wiggins controversy, backs Sutton for Cycling Australia role

UCI president also hints he won't seek re-election in 2021 and tells potential rival to wait four years...

UCI president Brian Cookson has described the continuing controversy regarding Sir Bradley Wiggins’ use of medicines as “frustrating” and says he would be “surprised and disappointed” if Team Sky were found to have broken any rules.

Cookson, who was president of British Cycling until taking his present position with the UCI in September 2013, also backed former Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton for the vacant role of performance director at Cycling Australia.

Speaking at the Santos Tour Down Under, he also confirmed that he does not plan to stand for a third term as leader of world cycling’s governing body in 2021 should he be re-elected this year.

In the closing months of 2016, hackers revealed that Wiggins had been granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for medicines to treat asthma and allergies ahead of key races including the 2012 Tour de France, which he won.

Subsequently, it emerged that a package containing medication for Wiggins was delivered to Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné, Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford told a parliamentary inquiry last month that it contained the decongestant Fluimucil, which is not banned.

UK Anti-Doping have opened an investigation into the issue, and Cookson told sbs.com.au: "Of course it's frustrating when a high-profile athlete in our sport is open to controversy and allegations, but let's see what comes out of the inquiry.

"I think the important thing here is that we let the UK Anti-Doping inquiry run its course.”

"When I was president of British Cycling, when setting up a professional team [Team Sky] that we had major involvement in, we wanted to make sure that the team had the highest standards of ethics possible.

"And if that slipped, I would be very surprised and disappointed."

While there has been no suggestion that Team Sky or Wiggins broke any rules, widespread concern has been expressed that they pushed up against the boundaries of what is allowed, raising ethical concerns over a team that positioned itself from the outset as riding clean.

> Team Sky can be trusted 100 per cent says Brailsford in awkward BBC interview

Cookson also spoke about Sutton, who resigned his position with British Cycling last April amid allegations of bullying and discrimination – in October, the governing body upheld one of nine charges against him following claims of sexism by track sprinter Jess Varnish, although the results of a separate independent investigation ordered by UK Sport will not be published until next month. 

> Independent review into British Cycling finally complete – but still won’t be published for another month

"Perhaps a number of people didn't find his approach agreeable,” said Cookson, “but many people did, and the proof of the pudding is in the number of medals he won.

"If you look around, if you look at some the negative things people have said, there are a number of people who have said positive things about him.

"I have a great respect for him.” Turning to the Cycling Australia role, he said, “It is not a matter for me, but Shane is a man whom I have a great amount of respect for.”

Cookson himself may face a challenge to his presidency of the UCI when his current term expires in September, with David Lappartient, who is not seeking a third term as president of the French cycling federation this year, expected to stand.

> "Change is needed" - FDJ boss says he'd back French bid for UCI presidency against Brian Cookson

UCI presidents are now limited to a maximum of three terms in office, as approved at the World Cycling Congress in Doha last October.

However, Cookson hinted strongly that even if he is still president of the organisation in 2021, by when he will be aged 70, he will not be seeking a third term.

He suggested that it would be better for Lappartient, currently aged 43 and a UCI vice-president, to wait until then to make a tilt for the top job.

 "David is an ambitious young man and he might decide on being a candidate at some stage," he told reporters.

"If I was him, I'd wait another four years as he would probably have an extremely good chance and wouldn't be opposed."

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.

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