Brian Cookson has made a brisk and busy start to his tenure in charge of cycling, with the new president of cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, opening talks with the World Anti-Doping Agency over the creation of an independent inquiry into doping within the sport
Two weeks after ousting Pat McQuaid in a bitter election that ended in near farce at the UCI congress in Florence, the 62-year-old has taken the first steps to deliver pre-election promises, as well as seeking to repair relations between the UCI and Wada and putting in place regime change within his organisation.
In the wake of last year’s stunning report by the US anti-doping agency into Lance Armstrong’s doping, relations between Wada and Usada became increasingly strained.
But Cookson has already had discussions with leading Wada figures and the Brit wants to create the inquiry to explore all doping cases and also look into whether the UCI itself was complicit in any cover-ups.
“These early days are very important for the UCI,” said Cookson. “We have embarked on the process of implementing our manifesto commitments so we can re-establish our international federation’s reputation and make it the best and most respected in the world. I believe we have made a good start.
“We have started the work of establishing a high-level dialogue with Wada to plan how we will proceed with the independent investigation into the UCI’s past.
“We have also been making contact with other key stakeholders in this area, including Usada, other national anti-doping organisations and the French Sports Ministry.”
The scenes in Florence as McQuaid sought to cling on to power were hugely damaging to a sport that does not have its troubles to seek after the Armstrong scandal.
It revealed a governing body in desperate need of reform and to that end Cookson, who swapped the presidency of British Cycling for this global role, has overseen the ousting of two key figures from the McQuaid regime.
Christophe Hubsch-mid, the UCI’s director general, and Phillippe Verbiest, the UCI’s legal counsel for nearly three decades, have both left. Cookson also announced the UCI has dropped its legal action against journalist Paul Kimmage, a former cyclist and prominent anti-doping campaigner.
Cookson, speaking from his first engagement as president at the Tour of Beijing, was diplomatic about the moves, saying : “I would like to thank Christophe for his contribution to the UCI and wish him well for the future. I would also like to thank Philippe for his many years of hard work and commitment to the UCI.”
The president has also set up a new commission to improve women’s elite racing, following on from appointing the Australian Tracey Gaudry as the first female vice-president of the UCI. Cookson also plans to meet Thomas Bach, the new president of the International Olympic Committee, soon.