Skip to main content

British cycling chief bids to oust UCI president; promises to clean up sport

updated 2:53 PM EDT, Tue June 4, 2013
Brian Cookson congratulates Britain's Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny at an awards ceremony.
Brian Cookson congratulates Britain's Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny at an awards ceremony.
  • Battle ahead for top job in world cycling
  • Brian Cookson will oppose Pat McQuaid for UCI presidency
  • Cookson promises to clean up the sport and great transparency
  • McQuaid has been criticized for his handling of Lance Armstrong affair

(CNN) -- British cycling chief Brian Cookson announced Tuesday he would challenge Irishman Pat McQuaid for the top job at the UCI -- promising to clean up the sport in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Cookson, 61, told CNN that he was standing for election as president of the world governing body because he was unhappy with its failure to deal with the issues raised since Armstrong made his public admission of guilt last year.

"We are still mired in controversy from the Lance Armstrong era," said Cookson.

"We need to clean that up and deal with historic accusations."

Armstrong's cheating makes millions
USADA official: Armstrong lied to Oprah
Journalist's crusade to expose Armstrong

Cookson has been credited with turning around the fortunes of the British federation, which he rescued from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1990s.

Read: "Deeply flawed" Armstrong admits drugs use

Latterly, riders such as reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and the track cycling team led by the now retired Chris Hoy, have catapulted British cycling to worldwide prominence.

Cookson, while quick to give credit to others for recent triumphs, believes that record will strengthen his claims come the election at the UCI annual congress in Florence, Italy in September.

"I'm very proud of the success we have achieved with British cycling and not in a way which generates conflict which seems to the UCI's modus operandi for the last several years," he said.

"I believe there is a massive appetite for change from people out there who are dissatisfied with the way the international cycling union (UCI) is running the sport."

Cookson, who has sat on the UCI management board with McQuaid since 2009, said he had no qualms about opposing him now.

Read: The claims, the attacks, the legacy of Armstrong

"I've supported Pat in the past, but I haven't undermined him and now we are in an election period you need to stand up and be counted."

Wiggins 1st Briton to win Tour de France
Teammate: Armstrong told partial truths
Armstrong emotional over apology to son

Cookson acknowledged that progress had been made since McQuaid took over the presidency in 2006, but was impatient for further reforms.

"I want to see an organization fit for a modern era which is accountable and which people can trust."

McQuaid and the Swiss-based UCI has come under intense spotlight since the publication of a damning report from the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA) last October, which laid bare the doping culture of Armstrong and other leading riders.

Armstrong was forced to own up in a live television appearance with Oprah Winfrey and was subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France wins.

Read: UCI asks Armstrong to return Tour prize money

Question marks were also raised about the UCI's role during Armstrong's era of domination and allegations have been made it was complicit in covering up positive tests.

It has also been at loggerheads with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) over the establishment of an independent commission, which would have attempted to get full disclosure of the extent of doping in cycling, but was disbanded by the UCI before it could report.

Cookson said his first priority would be to restore confidence and credibility in the sport.

"We must also urgently carry out a fully independent investigation into the allegations of corruption in this area which have so damaged the UCI's reputation," he said in his official supporting statement on the British Cycling website.

Read: McQuaid "sickened" by Armstrong revelations

Despite the controversies, the 63-year-old McQuaid has put himself forward as president for a third time and was formally nominated by the Swiss federation last month.

In a statement released at the time, McQuaid said he stood by his record: "I put myself forward to serve another term as UCI president on my record of developing the sport throughout the world and on combating the scourge of doping in cycling," he said.

"I have received a wealth of letters from national federations all around the world urging me to stand for president again."

McQuaid and Cookson are the only two publicly declared and nominated candidates at present, but former Tour de France champion Greg Lemond -- a fierce critic the current president -- has also hinted he may run for the job.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Photography can really pack a punch. Catch up with all the best shots from around the world with our weekly sports gallery.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Second-tier French side Clermont Foot appoint Helena Costa -- the country's first ever professional female coach of a male team.
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
San Francisco 49ers owner and co-chairman John York speaks to CNN about Michael Sam and the upcoming NFL Draft.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
The 2002 bomb attacks in Bali had many victims -- including a touring rugby team from Hong Kong.
Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
updated 6:25 AM EST, Mon January 20, 2014
Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
When the eye of the storm closes in most people head home -- but for these surfers it's a different story.
updated 9:45 AM EST, Mon January 6, 2014
Gareth Evans is a school teacher in South Africa. In 1983, he attended a "rebel tour" cricket match against the West Indies.
updated 10:07 AM EST, Tue December 17, 2013
In the wake of protests in his native Ukraine, heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has turned his back on boxing to focus on his political ambitions.
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
Former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka is running to be president of the International Olympic Committee.
The Olympics must use its global reach and immense popularity to help save a generation, says sporting icon Sergei Bubka.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013
CNN's Fred Pleitgen exposes a history of German government-funded doping throughout the Cold War.
updated 12:28 PM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
A competitor crosses the erg Znaigui during the second stage of the 26rd edition of the 'Marathon des Sables', on April 4, 2011, some 300 Kilometers, South of Ouarzazate in Morocco. The marathon is considered one of the hardest in the world, with 900 participants having to walk 250 kms (150 miles) for seven days in the Moroccan Sahara.
A six-day run that covers more than 220 km through the scorching heat of the Sahara desert has been billed as the "World's toughest race."
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
He plays the only sport approved by the Taliban, a game he learned as a war refugee in Pakistan.