Brian Cookson on Monday promised to introduce fit-and-proper person tests for team staff among a raft of anti-doping measures if the Briton succeeds in ousting Pat McQuaid as president of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, in a bid to ensure the “mood of scepticism” surrounding the sport is banished.
Cookson wants to restore a climate where triumphs such as Chris Froome’s performance in the Tour de France can be “heralded not disparaged” and bring an end to the sport’s “on-going credibility” problem.
The head of British Cycling believes the constant questioning of any successful rider’s achievements is damaging the Tour and the sport as a whole. Cookson is challenging McQuaid, a controversial figure seeking a third term as president, on a platform founded on a radical overhaul of how the sport deals with doping, an issue that has dogged it with increasing harm over the last decade.
Cookson wants team managers, doctors and sporting directors to undergo a fit-and-proper person test, a greater focus on catching and punishing “doping enablers”, ie any coaches or other support staff who help a rider to cheat, as well as the sharing of riders’ performance data with anti-doping organisations – as Team Sky have offered to do amid persistent questioning of Froome’s performances on some of the climbs in particular on the Tour.
“This year’s Tour de France has seen many heroic performances yet there has been a mood of scepticism and doubt in some quarters,” said Cookson. “This is deeply frustrating for the riders but, if you look at the past and what our sport has been through, it is not a surprise.
“We must act to change this situation so that the public can feel confident and cycling’s great performances can be heralded not disparaged. After a magnificent end to the 100th Tour de France, the UCI owes it to all the clean riders to show leadership on anti-doping.”
McQuaid, whose tenure at the UCI oversaw part of the Lance Armstrong era, has been heavily criticised for the governing body’s response to the doping scandals, in particular that of Armstrong. McQuaid has vigorously defended his record and remains a narrow favourite for September’s vote in Florence, held during the world road championships.
When Cookson announced his manifesto for the presidency last month it included the establishment of an independent anti-doping body for cycling. Yesterday he added more detail to his plan. Cookson, who has overseen the dramatic boom in British cycling, proposes setting up an independent investigation into the doping scandals and the UCI’s response to them, as well as improving relations with anti-doping organisations.
“In light of the continuing issues arising from the Armstrong era and cycling’s on-going credibility problem, more can and must be done,” he said. “It has nearly always required a third party such as government, the police or a national anti-doping agency to launch major investigations into doping in cycling.
“The UCI has rarely seemed willing to take the initiative and it is critical that this changes as a matter of urgency. Looking ahead, the UCI must demonstrate true leadership and show a real desire to deal with the past and properly tackle doping in the future. I believe this is essential for the sport, for the riders, for the fans and for the sponsors.”
Cookson supports the World Anti-Doping Agency’s proposed four-year bans – which will be in place from 2015 – and their imposition on guilty coaches and medical staff too, but it is his proposed fit-and-proper person test that stands out.
He said: “If elected UCI president I will introduce a fit-and-proper-person’s test in cycling, taking the example from regulations which govern who is fit to be a company director. I want to see the UCI adopt a process by which team managers, team doctors and sports directors are assessed for their suitability to be in a position of authority in the sport.”