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Cookson: ‘It’ll be a bad day for cycling if I’m not elected’

In the days before the election for UCI president, Britain’s Brian Cookson remains confident he can unseat the incumbent, Pat McQuaid, should the Irishman be allowed to run for a third term.

“I’m feeling confident in the final 48 hours leading up to the elections. We have a chance to start a new process on Friday. A process that will restore trust and credibility,” Cookson said at a press conference in Florence, Italy on Wednesday. “Friday is a crossroads moment.”

Cookson finds himself in a heated campaign against McQuaid, who has served as president for two terms but is ensnared in controversy regarding the governing body’s handling of Lance Armstrong, among other things. McQuaid, though, had his nomination from his home nation revoked, and now is hoping the 42 delegates of the UCI Congress allows amendments to the Constitution that would allow nations other than Ireland and Switzerland to nominate him for president. One proposal would allow the incumbent the right to run for re-election simply because he served as president in the past. Cookson said that if McQuaid isn’t able to run, he still wants a vote of sorts, to indicate he has support from the Congress. The UCI Congress meets on Friday to vote.

Cookson has said he represents a sharp departure from the UCI of the past, namely McQuaid and his predecessor and close advisor Hein Verbruggen. In fact, he said it would be a dark day for cycling if he weren’t elected.

“It’ll be a bad day for cycling if I’m not elected. It’s been a troublesome era, if I’m not elected, then that era will continue,” he said. “If I’m elected, UCI will be under new management. There’ll be a different set of people in charge. I don’t see any involvement of Verbruggen going forward. He even stated he doesn’t want involvement in the UCI.”

Asked how long it would take to restore the trust he says has eroded from the UCI, the president of British Cycling said it would be a “long process.”

“It’s going to be a long process, no doubt. The first thing I’ll do on Monday morning is to put a call in with [World Anti-Doping Agency] to get a commission under way. We want to get it underway very quickly. Let’s get an independent anti-doping agency, start to build trust in our sport,” he said. “The model already exists in WADA and is used in other sports. I see no difficulty in establishing an independent body. WADA said it’s possible. It needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

VeloNews contributor Gregor Brown contributed to this report.

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