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Brian Cookson set to announce independent investigation into UCI

UCI president reflects on first four weeks in top spot at governing body

UCI president Brian Cookson expects to announce details in the coming days of the independent commission into the UCI’s past governance, including its role in the Lance Armstrong scandal. He has also outlined how he has been engaging with anti-doping bodies as well as Tour de France owners ASO in the four weeks since his election in Florence. 

Among the organisations Cookson has been speaking to is the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is assisting the UCI in setting up that independent commission, and he says that details will be revealed following the governing body's Management Committee's meeting next week.

Cookson was speaking to following the presentation of the 2014 Tour in Paris yesterday. Just three months ago, on the day the 100th edition of the race finished in the same city, he had told us of some of his plans if elected. After defeating Pat McQuaid in the election, he is now working on delivering his promises.

“I have to say it’s going very well, all of the challenges have been quite clear, but what’s really struck me since the election has been the positive reaction I’ve got from all around the world,” he said.

“It’s not just from the cycling world but from the Olympic movement as well, from the anti-doping organisations. There has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

“I find that very encouraging because what that means is my job will be so much easier because I’m not fighting those people any more,” an allusion to the confrontational stance that typified McQuaid’s eight years in the top spot at world cycling’s governing body.

“Those people want to work with the UCI, they want the sport of cycling to develop positively, we’re in a good position now to help them do that, and I really am very optimistic about the future,” continued Cookson.

“There’s lots of difficult decisions still to make, some we’ve already made, we’ve had some changes in senior staff at top level, but I think everything we’ve done so far, fingers crossed, has been well received.

“I’m sure there will be some problems that we have to deal with in the coming months but I believe that we’ve made a good start and I believe that the future really can be very bright.

One of Cookson’s manifesto pledges was to end what he termed the “public feuding” with anti-doping agencies and other parties that often reared its head during Pat McQuaid’s presidency.

After ASO decided to take control of doping tests on the 2008 Tour de France a number of riders, including Riccardò Ricco, were found by France’s national anti-doping agency, the AFLD, to have tested positive and were banned.

The following year, the UCI was once again conducting the tests, but AFLD’s then president, Pierre Bordry, was highly critical of what he saw as giving favourable treatment to Lance Armstrong’s Astana team – an allegation that McQuaid described as “pure bullshit.”

One of the principal pillars of Cookson’s manifesto was to “ensure that anti- doping is wholly and genuinely independent of the UCI,” and he is building bridges with relevant organisations as part of the non-confrontational stance that looks set to be a hallmark of his presidency.

“I’ve had quite cordial relations with ASO for a number of years now, I get on very well with Yann Le Moenner and Christian Prudhomme and I was speaking with Madame Amaury [matriarch of the family that owns ASO] beforehand and I think we have the potential there for a really strong relationship,” he explained.

“I had a meeting this morning with the president of the AFLD, there’s been so many conflicts between them and the UCI over the years and I’m absolutely sure that we’ll have a good working relationship.

“I’ve told him that we certainly won’t have fights in public, we may have disagreements at times, but we will have good discussions and we’ll work in a positive way.

“Also, I’ve spoken on the telephone with John Fahey, the head of WADA, and my colleague Martyn Gibbs has spoken with David Howman, the director, and again we’re going to have very, very positive relations.

“I know that they’re going to help us set up the commission we’re establishing, we’re going to have some news about that in the next few days after the Management Committee meeting on Tuesday, so interesting and exciting times lie ahead.”

As president of British Cycling, a post that he has relinquished as a result of his election to the UCI presidency, Cookson rescued the governing body from the brink of bankruptcy and began a process that has seen the country’s cyclists become world beaters at the Olympics, the Tour de France and elsewhere.

Referring to next year’s Grand Départ in Yorkshire, followed by a stage from Cambridge to London, he said that holding events of that status, plus the success achieved by British riders in the Tour and elsewhere in recent years, provided an example that other national federations could follow. 

“It’s a big opportunity for Great Britain but I think also if I can put an international perspective on it, it shows the rest of the world what can be achieved,” he said.

“Great Britain was a small nation in cycling in quite recent history and now we’re one of the major players, we’ve got great riders, we’ve got great events, and now we’ve got people who are household names and so many more people riding bikes, the manifestation of that is out there.

“So I think it shows the rest of the world what can be achieved,” he concluded.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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