Brian Cookson’s election pledge to rebuild credibility in world cycling’s governing body took a big step forward today as the first UCI Management Committee meeting he has chaired since becoming president last month agreed what are described as “a number of important measures aimed at restoring trust” in the organisation - including a pay cut for Cookson.
Those include the setting up of an independent commission to look into allegations of wrongdoing at the UCI, including the United States Anti-Doping agency's assertion it helped cover up doping in relation to the Lance Armstrong scandal, and an audit of the UCI’s anti-doping procedures prior to them being made fully independent, as Cookson has promised.
Last week, it was revelaed that private investigators had entered UCI headquarters immediately afer Cookson's election to secure computer records that could be used in evidence for the independent commission, which Cookson has said is likely to involve the World Anti-Doing Agency (WADA).
Meanwhile, Martin Gibbs, former policy and legal affairs director at British Cycling, has become the UCI’s Director General, replacing Christophe Hubschmid, removed from his post earlier this month in the wake of Cookson’s election victory and a close ally of former president Pat McQuaid.
Measures approved at the extraordinary meeting of the Management Committee include:
A full audit of the systems and controls currently employed by the UCI’s anti-doping operations to ensure that they are working efficiently. The audit will also be used as a basis to create a clear roadmap for setting up an independent UCI anti-doping operation in 2014.
The broad principles under which it intends to move forward with the implementation of an Independent Commission which will look into allegations of past wrongdoing at the UCI and the extent and roots of doping in cycling. The objectives of the Independent Commission are in line with the manifesto of Brian Cookson, to re-establish trust in the UCI and restore confidence in the sport of cycling. UCI will continue its discussions with WADA and other stakeholders to finalise the Independent Commission's framework.
The establishment of an International Development Commission to review the wide-ranging work of the UCI in this field including the role of Global Cycling Promotion and the World Cycling Centre. The Commission will report its initial findings and recommendations to the next UCI Management Committee in January 2014.
Supporting the new Women’s Cycling Commission, chaired by UCI Vice President Tracey Gaudry, in its work to appoint members and establish objectives including 2014 recommendations by the end of 2013 on delivering a step change in women’s cycling. Further details on this will be available on the UCI website this week.
Cookson has also made details of his salary public, in line with his pre-election pledge to bring transparency to the role if he became president. His salary of 340,000 Swiss francs (£236,000) is 110,000 Swiss francs (£76,000) less than the package in place at the time of the election.
As the UCI is a non-profit international sporting organisation, that salary will be tax-free under Swiss law.
Following the meeting, Cookson said: “Today’s Management Committee meeting was an important moment for the UCI as we put in place a number of measures to restore trust in the UCI and ensure our great sport is able to move forward.
“I would like to thank my Management Committee colleagues for the professional and collegiate way they approached today’s meeting and I am encouraged by the strong sense of common purpose.
“We have made important decisions on women’s cycling, international development, the establishment of a fully independent anti-doping unit and an independent commission to look into allegations of UCI wrong-doing.
“We have also started the process of modernising the UCI's constitution.
"There is a huge amount of work to do in the coming months and beyond, but I am excited by the passion and support my colleagues have shown for implementing a real programme of change for the good of cycling.”
Last week it emerged that even as the votes were being counted at the presidential election in Florence, more than 400km to the north, private investigators from the firm Kroll, which specialises in fraud and recovery of computer records, were awaiting authorisation from Cookson to enter UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland in the event he were elected.
The Financial Times [£] said that “within minutes” of the result being declared, that authorisation had arrived and the investigators entered the premises to ensure that computer records and IT equipment were secured before there was an opportunity to destroy or remove anything.
Cookson confirmed that Kroll employees had entered the premises, saying: "They had to secure the computers. They took all the back-up tapes and all the IT stuff. They were available to make sure that nothing was destroyed that shouldn't be destroyed.
“I don’t like to think there was anything that serious,” he added, “but we had to take the precaution.”
Some subsequent reports, including one in the Guardian, claimed that “sources close to Cookson have confirmed that among the equipment seized was McQuaid's laptop,” a detail not mentioned at all in the original story in the Financial Times.
McQuaid has told Cycling News that the claim had no foundation, sending it a message on Thursday that read: ““That story is bullshit - my laptop was with me in Florence and came back to Switzerland with me - a week later I gave it to the UCI to clear my UCI files and the laptop is now back with me!!”
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.