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

Brian Cookson congratulates Britain's Olympic sprint champion Jason Kenny at an awards ceremony.

Story highlights

  • 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

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."

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

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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."

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

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"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.