British Cycling president Brian Cookson, who is challenging incumbent Pat McQuaid for the presidency of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has issued a statement detailing his vision for the future of the fight against doping in cycling.
Cookson says that this year’s Tour de France was beset by “scepticism and doubt” despite “heroic performances” by the riders. “If you look at the past and what our sport has been through, it is not a surprise,” he says.
Cookson says that part of the process of restoring the credibility of cycling is to establish an anti-doping unit that is “physically and politically separate from the UCI.” However, he now says, “more can and must be done.”
Major doping busts of the past have almost always been the work of agencies outside cycling. The Festina scandal of 1998 unfolded after French police found a large stash of drugs in the car of team soigneur Willie Voet. The Operacion Puerto blood doping revelations came about as result of an investigation by the Spanish police and Lance Armstrong’s downfall came after a federal grand jury investigation into his teams and action by the US Anti-Doping Agency. That case led to an unseemly squabble between USADA and the UCI over who had jurisdiction.
Cookson says: “It has nearly always required a third party such as government, the police or a national anti doping agency to launch major investigations into doping in cycling. The UCI has rarely seemed willing to take the initiative and it is critical that this changes as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking to road.c after yesterday's finish of the Tour de France, Cookson explained that a UCI prority was to re-establish credibility in its leadershp.
"You can’t re-establish credibility in the leadership without a change in leadership," he said.
The UCI has also frequently clashed with the World Anti-Doping Agency amid accusations that cycling’s anti-doping efforts were insufficient.
Fixing that fractious relationship is the first of Cookson’s seven-point plan to improve the UCI’s anti-doping efforts.
His plan, says Cookson “can set a new path for the UCI and help to rebuild trust in our athletes and our sport. If we fail to embrace change, our sport will continue to be damaged by on-going innuendo, rumour and a fundamental lack of trust. The UCI must act decisively and show genuine leadership to support a new culture of anti doping.”
Cookson’s seven-point plan
1 Put an end to the UCI’s public feuding with anti doping bodies such as WADA and USADA
“It is absurd that a sport that has suffered so much from doping has been in open conflict with the very people it should be working in partnership with. It is critical that the UCI develops an open, co-operative working relationships with WADA and the National Anti Doping Organisations. This is crucial if cycling’s war against doping is to succeed.”
2 Instigate a fully independent investigation into doping in cycling so we can deal once and for all with the past, with amnesties/reductions in sanctions to encourage all those involved to come forward.
“We must learn from the past. I will implement a fully independent investigation into doping in cycling so we can deal once and for all with the past, with amnesties/reductions in sanctions to encourage all those involved to come forward. This will require agreement with WADA on its terms of reference and the appropriate amnesty provisions to properly incentivise those involved to come forward, but it must be done. The brief of the investigation should include the uncovering of any UCI corruption and collusion, and understand what factors led to the culture of doping.”
3 Ensure more transparency, data sharing and co-operation by teams with their national anti-doping body and cycling’s Independent Anti Doping Unit
“The release by Team Sky of Chris Froome’s power data symbolised the sport’s credibility problem and showed the need for more transparency, data sharing and co-operation from the teams. That is why I am committed to ensuring the UCI adopt rules requiring teams and organisers to share relevant data and intelligence with the Independent Anti Doping Unit and relevant National Anti Doping organisations.”
4 Create the role of independent team compliance officers whose duty will be to report regularly to the Independent Anti Doping Unit
“I believe that transparency will be helped significantly with a system to create the role of independent team compliance officers whose duty will be to report regularly to the Independent Anti Doping Unit.”
5 Introduce a Fit and Proper Person test in cycling
“If elected UCI President I will introduce a Fit and Proper Person test in cycling, taking the example from regulations which govern who is fit to be a company director. I want to see the UCI adopt a process by which team managers, team doctors and sports directors are assessed for their suitability to be in a position of authority in the sport.”
6 Support four year bans for dopers, and pursue doping enablers as well as riders
“I fully support longer bans for those found guilty of doping and welcome WADA’s new four year bans that will come into force from 2015. It is important that these sanctions are not just placed on riders found guilty, but also on those who enable doping to take place, such as managers, team staff and doctors. The UCI needs to put real effort into catching those who facilitate doping and champion whistleblowers, not denigrate them.”
7 Expand the UCI’s anti doping education programmes
“Finally, I want to see an expansion of the UCI’s education programmes, building on the good work of ‘True Champion or Cheat’ which is one of the excellent legacies of Anne Gripper’s time as UCI Head of Anti Doping.”
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.