Brian Cookson to challenge Pat McQuaid for UCI presidency

British Cycling president Brian Cookson has announced his intention to challenge UCI president Pat McQuaid for the top job at cycling’s world governing body.

Cookson initially indicated in February that he had no plans of standing against McQuaid but, with the UCI increasingly engulfed by scandal, the 61-year-old launched his bid “to restore cycling’s worldwide credibility”.  Elections will take place at the UCI’s Annual Congress in Florence, Italy, in September.

Brian Cookson will stand against current UCI president Pat McQuaid

Cookson became president of British Cycling in 1997, when the organisation was on the brink of insolvency, and has transformed the sport, both at elite and grass-roots level, in the 16 years since, culminating in Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France victory in 2013.

“I am today announcing that I am standing as a candidate for the presidency of the UCI,” said Cookson in a statement on his campaign website.

“I have the full support and nomination of my home federation, British Cycling, and I respectfully ask for the support of the national cycling federations of the world and the whole international cycling family.

“I am not doing this lightly as I know how much needs to be done. When I became the president of British Cycling in 1996, the federation was deeply troubled and close to bankruptcy.

“Since that time cycling in my country has been transformed beyond recognition. Many wonderful people have helped this process, motivated by a passion to do the best for cycling, and I have been proud to lead them.

“This transformation has been achieved, above all, by creating a well run, stable federation governed on the principles of honesty, transparency and clear divisions of responsibility. These principles are even more important for an international federation.”

While Cookson, who has sat on the UCI’s Management Committee since 2009, has secured a nomination from British Cycling, Cycle Ireland was forced to void its decision to back McQuaid, who became UCI president in 2006, for a third term after it emerged protocol had not been followed.

Irish cycling’s governing body will now hold an extraordinary general meeting to decide the outcome but McQuaid has moved to sidestep the row by seeking a nomination from Swiss Cycling as he has residence in the country.

Cycling’s reputation has been left in tatters in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal and McQuaid has faced increasing calls for his resignation after USADA’s investigation into Armstrong revealed the UCI had accepted a $100,000 donation from the Texan in 2007.

Current UCI president Pat McQuaid has faced increasing calls for his resignation

Cookson added: “Many good things have happened in our sport around the world in recent years, and I am proud that British cyclists and British events such as London 2012 have played their part in showing what a superb sport we have in cycling, in all its diversity.

“But the passion I and many others have for cycling cannot hide the fact that our international body, the UCI, remains hugely distracted, continuing to flounder in waves of damaging historical controversies.

“For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts with important members of the cycling family and other key stakeholders.

“This situation is deeply damaging for our sport, and it has severely compromised the UCI’s ability to develop and communicate some of the good work that is happening across the world.”

Cookson will publish his manifesto later this month but, should his campaign for presidency be successful, the former regional champion will seek “to restore cycling’s worldwide credibility, to change its governance, to make the sport more transparent, and to agree a clear strategy for the future of cycling.”

He added:  “I want to see a UCI whose culture and way of doing things is defined by openness, transparency and a commitment to more collegiate decision making.

“We need to work for the good of cycling globally, and not protect vested interests, wherever they may lie.  The best way we can achieve this is to be much more open on how we operate and make decisions.  In essence, my manifesto will outline how I would build trust in the UCI, and what our vision should be, for the future.

“I believe that I have a strong and proven track record in delivering positive change in cycling, and in a way that is collegiate – not confrontational – as my time as president of British Cycling shows.  It is this style of approach that I want to bring to the UCI.

“I would be truly honoured to be elected UCI president, but I also understand the magnitude of the challenges we face.  If successful in my campaign, I will do all in my powers to turn my vision of a more open and modern UCI into reality, in full partnership with all the other stakeholders in the sport we love.”

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