Lance Armstrong

McQuaid in race to keep top cycling job

President faces challenger critical of organisation 'mired' in controversy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 June, 2013, 5:47am


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Dragging cycling from the "mire" of the Lance Armstrong affair will be Brian Cookson's objective if the British Cycling chief succeeds in unseating International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid later this year.

McQuaid's bid for a third term as president of cycling's ruling body is set to be decided at a UCI congress at the world championships in Florence in September.

[The UCI] is mired and tied up in controversies from the past

However, the Irishman's tenure is under threat for the first time as the sport battles to rid itself of allegations of collusion in the biggest scandal in its history.

During his seven-year tenure McQuaid is credited with introducing measures to boost the fight against doping and taking top level events to new countries in a bid to globalise the sport.

Yet questions remain over the UCI's role in allegedly helping Armstrong by covering up tests he previously failed.

McQuaid was still only a UCI member when Armstrong retired the first time, in 2005. However the governing body is under the microscope.

As well as fingering Armstrong, the publication of a damning report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) report in October last year also left a shadow over UCI following accusations the body had been complicit in covering up previous positive tests during the era of McQuaid's predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) also criticised the UCI, after an independent panel that cycling's governing body had established to examine its own alleged involvement was disbanded before it could report.

Speaking at a tele-conference after announcing his bid earlier in the day, Cookson says if elected he will launch an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the UCI's role in the affair.

"I think it is clear that we still haven't dealt satisfactorily with the historic allegations of collusion and intrigue around the Lance Armstrong era - we need an independent investigation quickly and I certainly pledge to put that in place as soon as I can if I'm elected," said Cookson.

"I have been on the UCI committee for the last four years and I have input as much as I feel I can into that organisation and now it has reached a time when it needs a change in leadership.

"It is mired and tied up in controversies from the past and they always will be until we have that change. Things haven't improved or been delivered and I'm convinced that this is the right time for me to put my name forward."

So far Cookson is the only UCI member to put his name forward to challenge McQuaid, who was unavailable for comment.

But the 61-year-old Englishman, who is credited with pulling British cycling away from the brink of bankruptcy in 1997 and orchestrating it's successful drive to world and Olympic glory, is confident he can challenge.

Cookson said he has received "hundreds" of messages of support, including from famous cyclists Chris Hoy, Chris Boardman and David Millar.

Cookson said: "If elected I will devote myself to rebuilding relations with Wada and establishing with them a completely independent body to deal with anti-doping in cycling.

"I will also seek their full co-operation in the independent investigation into the UCI's past."