Cookson confident of comprehensive victory over McQuaid
British candidate for UCI presidency will keep pressure on up until vote
British Cycling chairman Brian Cookson. Photograph: Jon Buckle/PA
British Cycling’s chairman Brian Cookson claims he is on course for a comprehensive victory in the bitterly-disputed contest to be the next president of the international cycling union (UCI).
Cookson is running against the incumbent president, Pat McQuaid of Ireland, and believes he has secured more than enough votes ahead of the election in Florence next week.
The winner needs at least 22 of the 42 votes and Cookson is confident he will get “in the high 20s” after an election campaign that has seen mud-slinging taken to new levels.
Cookson said at a briefing in Manchester: “I’m confident that I will get a vote that is at least in the high 20s.
“It’s confident but it’s not guaranteed. And what we’ve still got to do is keep the pressure on.
“Elections can be won and lost in the last few days and it’s very important that we don’t take any of that for granted.
“I am sure there is a massive appetite for change, there is no doubt about that.”
Cookson should receive a head start in the form of all 14 votes from Europe after he won a vote on Sunday and he is confident those delegates will follow that mandate.
Cookson, head of British Cycling since 1996, claims the UCI has failed to deal with the damage it has suffered from successive doping controversies, not least Lance Armstrong’s, and that he wants to make the organisation more modern and transparent.
He described it as “absolutely appalling” that he was refused details of McQuaid’s salary – he has heard figures of between €160,000 and €500,000 a year – and despite being a member of the UCI’s management committee had never heard of the ‘compensation committee’ that agrees the presidential salary.
If elected, he promised he will publish his salary on an annual basis.
McQuaid has been fighting a ferocious battle himself and has levelled a number of accusations at his rival, most recently claiming Cookson intends to run the UCI “while keeping his feet up in Lancashire” rather than move to its current Swiss base.
Cookson insisted however: “I will be moving to Switzerland and will be giving 100 per cent to this role.
“I am not going to respond in kind to the silly smears and slurs that have been thrown around in this election.
“I haven’t engaged in any mud-slinging, but when somebody starts chucking mud at you, then you have to respond, not in kind, but you have to at least give a fair account of yourself.
“But to have read some of the bizarre allegations coming up. This thing about me running the UCI from a retirement home in Lancashire, watching ‘Cash in the Attic’ or something, it is just bonkers.”
The doping issue is one that Cookson claims is still causing damage to cycling, and that McQuaid has to take partial responsibility for.
In Germany for example, there is no coverage of the Tour cycling events on mainstream TV after a number of scandals, some involving German riders and teams.
Cookson says the UCI has time and again “fudged” its response to doping.
He added: “Now is the time when clearly we need a body that is separate from the UCI to administer doping in our sport because people don’t trust the UCI any longer.
“I think he [McQuaid] has to take a lot of responsibility. Historically the UCI has simply not grasped the nettle firmly enough at every opportunity on doping.”
Cookson is confident of gaining support from Pan-America, which has nine votes, and Oceania, which has three, but McQuaid is strong in Africa (seven votes) and Asia (nine) which rely heavily on development money from the UCI.
Cookson said smaller countries had “nothing to fear” from him and that he “wants to do more” in developing cycling around the world rather than less.
If McQuaid loses,cycling will not have a president who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, but Cookson insists he can still have influence on the IOC, and that the issue of the reputational damage to cycling is more important.
Cookson also wants an independent investigation into allegations in a dossier presented to the UCI claiming corruption, covering up of doping and mismanagement.
He said: “If people have accepted illicit payments then that is a matter for the police and the public authorities.
“Clearly what has not happened is a proper forensic independent investigation of those allegations, which are still there still on the table.
“I don’t understand why we have not got that investigation under way yet and we need to do that as quickly as possible after the election.”