Cookson takes aim at McQuaid’s strengths and weaknesses in manifesto

British Cycling president Brian Cookson speaks to UCI president's detractors, base in 10-page campaign document

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UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson has pledged to bring transparency and other reforms to the sport’s world governing body in a 10-page manifesto published on Monday.

Cookson, who earlier this month announced his candidacy for the top post at cycling’s world governing body, on Monday released the detailed rundown of his background and the pillars on which he will base his run. Among the cornerstones of Cookson’s campaign are a restructuring of elite road cycling and the growth of women’s racing.

The president of British Cycling pointed to six key areas on which he will focus the UCI’s energies, should be be elected at the road world championships in Florence, Italy, in September:

1. Revolutionize our approach to anti-doping
2. Embrace openness and transparency
3. Grow cycling worldwide
4. Developing women’s cycling
5. Overhaul the structure of elite road cycling
6. Embrace the future together

In the document, Cookson pledged to work alongside the World Anti-Doping Agency in his first year to establish a new, independent anti-doping effort that “would be physically and politically separate from the UCI.” The governing body has fallen under fire over its treatment of doping in the 1990s and 2000s and waged war in the press with the French and U.S. anti-doping agencies in recent years. Cookson lauded WADA’s current effort to extend first-time doping sanctions to four years and described a system that would focus on “doping enablers” and not just athletes.

“It is essential that we stop the UCI’s public feuding with WADA, the AFLD, USADA and others,” Cookson wrote. “I will seek immediate peace with these key organizations, and engage with them to resolve areas of dispute. Crucially we must ensure that anti-doping is wholly and genuinely independent of the UCI. At present it is independent in name only, located at UCI headquarters, down the corridor from the president’s office, with all cases managed by the UCI legal department. This is not independence.”

Cookson also pledged to share his financial interests and convey potential conflicts of interest — another sticking point with current UCI president Pat McQuaid and honorary president Hein Verbruggen, the latter of whom has been tied with close Lance Armstrong associate Jim Ochowicz via the BMC Racing president’s role as his fund manager at Thomas Weisel Partners. Cookson gave his support to a truth and reconciliation effort to address past doping practices and pledged to conduct such an effort in his first six months in office, if the UCI can overcome legal barriers.

“In relation to a full Truth and Reconciliation process, while there are a number of practical legal issues that require consideration, if these can be overcome, I would welcome such a process,” wrote Cookson. “What I am absolutely committed to is ensuring that any allegations which implicate the UCI over historic doping cover-ups are fully and independently investigated. I will ensure that we have a quick and effective process to establish the facts. This process will include working with WADA to ensure that athletes and others who cooperate with that investigation are treated properly, in the same way that USADA managed its investigation into Lance Armstrong.”

Cookson not only took aim at McQuaid’s weaknesses, but also his strengths. The Irishman has worked to expand cycling globally, taking advantage of deep relationships he’s built in non-traditional cycling nations to consolidate his hold on the UCI presidency. During McQuaid’s two-term presidency, the top road circuit has expanded to include stops in Asia, Australia, and the U.S., and the World Cycling Center in South Africa has produced a number of WorldTour professionals and the MTN-Qhubeka team, which won Milano-Sanremo in March with Gerald Ciolek. It is widely believed that, should he stand for reelection, support from cycling’s nontraditional nations would be key for McQuaid.

Mike Plant, the only American on the UCI Management Committee, on which Cookson sits, has spoken out in favor of leadership change and the Brit took aim at McQuaid’s global base on Monday:

I will ensure the further development of the programs available at the World Cycling Center, by increasing its budget, hosting more riders from developing nations, and utilizing the experience of the more successful nations in the Center to help nurture cycling in developing nations. I want to see more courses organized for sport directors, coaches, mechanics, commissaires, and event organizers and I will increase resources to ensure this happens.

Much more can be done to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise to less developed nations, and I am proud that the coaching and education materials that the UCI uses throughout the world for track, road, MTB and BMX were developed by my federation. I shall create the structures and incentives for a series of development initiatives between federations.

I will also look at creating more World Cycling Satellite Centers, like the ones in South Africa and South Korea, to develop athletes and to facilitate their transfer to programs at the World Cycling Center at Aigle. I know how inspirational time spent at Aigle can be for aspiring young riders, and I am committed to expanding the number of opportunities we offer.

Read Cookson’s full campaign manifesto >>