Brian Cookson, in his own words

Two weeks after he was ousted as UCI pres­i­dent, Bri­tain’s Brian Cookson writes about his record, the sport and his fu­ture

Cycling Weekly - - Contents - Brian Cookson

Well, my friends, it’s some 35 years ago that I first wrote race re­ports for

Cy­cling Weekly, phon­ing them in to a copy­taker on a Sun­day evening, usu­ally after rid­ing the race my­self. It’s 21 years since I be­came pres­i­dent of Bri­tish Cy­cling, and four years since I be­came pres­i­dent of the UCI in Septem­ber 2013. And it’s just two weeks since I was de­feated in the elec­tion at the UCI Congress in Ber­gen.

Per­haps it’s too early for a full his­tor­i­cal as­sess­ment, but now that the dust has set­tled a lit­tle, I’d like to ask CW read­ers to think back to 2013 and ask them­selves: “Is the UCI, is the sport, in a bet­ter place now than then?” I’d sub­mit that it is in a far, far bet­ter place.

For a start, the UCI is no longer at war with WADA and other anti-dop­ing agen­cies, who should have been, and now are, among the clos­est al­lies of our sport’s in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tion.

Plus, four years ago, se­nior fig­ures within the IOC were call­ing for cy­cling to be re­moved from the Olympic Games al­to­gether. Now our sport has four new medal events, mak­ing cy­cling the third big­gest sport at the Games.

The men’s UCI World­tour is now a gen­uinely world­wide af­fair, which re­spects the sport’s her­itage and heart­lands while bring­ing in new ter­ri­to­ries where there is in­ter­est in, and po­ten­tial for, our sport — that in­cludes Great Bri­tain. Mean­while, the Women’s World­tour is vastly more suc­cess­ful than the World Cup se­ries that it re­placed. As in all sports, achiev­ing true equal­ity of

op­por­tu­nity for women will take time, but great foun­da­tions have been laid and a strong, sus­tain­able fu­ture lies ahead.

The UCI’S own flag­ship event, the Road World Championships, has been al­lo­cated un­der my ten­ure to three fan­tas­tic venues; Ber­gen has al­ready set new stan­dards, and Inns­bruck (2018) and York­shire (2019) will un­doubt­edly pro­vide su­perb Championships too.

Away from the road, track, moun­tain bike, BMX and cy­clo-cross dis­ci­plines have all been revitalised and are stronger and bet­ter sup­ported than ever be­fore.

And tak­ing a broader per­spec­tive, govern­ments around the world are start­ing to see the health and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of cy­cling, and the UCI is at long last con­tribut­ing to this move­ment, mo­bil­is­ing the in­spi­ra­tional power of elite rac­ing to mo­ti­vate peo­ple to ride bikes for fit­ness, health and fun.

So with all that in mind, I’m proud of the legacy I leave be­hind after four years that have passed like a whirl­wind.

Po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tion

Could more have been achieved? Yes, of course. But, de­spite what some peo­ple seem to think, run­ning a com­plex in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tion of sev­eral dis­ci­plines, cov­er­ing 190 na­tional fed­er­a­tions on five con­ti­nents, with thou­sands of events, and mil­lions of fans, is not a job that can be car­ried out by the whims of one man. The age of the sport­ing oli­garch has passed.

What I al­ways tried to achieve was progress through con­sen­sus. That’s never easy. And if you com­pare the role of an in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tion to that of a reg­u­la­tor of an in­dus­try, that’s where dif­fi­cul­ties in­crease.

My col­leagues and I al­ways took the best de­ci­sions that we could, based on the avail­able in­for­ma­tion, and tried to do so with in­tegrity and trans­parency, bear­ing in mind the le­gal re­stric­tions in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. De­spite what has been said, I al­ways en­sured that I gave my vice pres­i­dents and man­age­ment com­mit­tee am­ple op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in im­por­tant de­ci­sions, tried to make sure that they were sup­port­ive of what was agreed, and that they un­der­stood the prin­ci­ple of col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The mar­gin of the vote was cer­tainly a sur­prise to me. It did not re­flect the dis­cus­sions I had with vot­ing delegates and Na­tional Fed­er­a­tions in the days and weeks be­fore the Congress. Clearly some delegates changed their minds at the last minute. I think my team and I ran a good cam­paign, we made bold but achiev­able com­mit­ments in my man­i­festo, and on the day I think my speech to the Congress, which con­tained a num­ber of new com­mit­ments, was fair and hon­est. I gen­uinely be­lieved I was ahead by a rea­son­able mar­gin. Clearly not enough delegates felt the same way.

But for all the cov­er­age that there has been, I haven’t read a sin­gle ac­cu­rate anal­y­sis. The re­sult was noth­ing to do with any of the Bri­tish Cy­cling or Team Sky con­tro­ver­sies, noth­ing to do with my style of lead­er­ship, noth­ing to do with tech­no­log­i­cal fraud al­le­ga­tions, and noth­ing to do with my per­ceived per­son­al­ity strengths or weak­nesses. In fact, I have ex­cel­lent per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with all of the delegates, all of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tions, and with the mem­bers of the UCI’S com­mit­tees, com­mis­sions, and stake­hold­ers. The re­sult was pure pol­i­tics. In sim­ple terms, I think we got the cam­paign right, but the pol­i­tics dis­as­trously wrong.

My qual­ity of life will be much bet­ter over the next four years — less stress, less pres­sure, less travel (the nov­elty of air­ports, ho­tels, and con­fer­ence cen­tres soon wears off — I know, First World prob­lems), and less con­flict to deal with. I’ll be able to ride my bike more of­ten, spend more time with my fam­ily, write my book about my life­time ex­pe­ri­ences in cy­cling, and pur­sue a few new projects. The cy­cling world hasn’t heard the last of me.

I be­lieve we laid solid foun­da­tions over the last four years and that the UCI made great progress over that pe­riod. It’s im­por­tant to keep tak­ing the sport for­wards. I hope David Lap­par­tient will re­sist any pres­sure that he will face from the power bro­kers of the past, who took cy­cling into such a dark place. I be­lieve he will. I think he will be a good pres­i­dent, and I wish him ev­ery suc­cess. Cy­cling and the UCI can­not af­ford an­other pe­riod of con­flict and I will sup­port him in any way I can.

“I’m proud of the legacy I leave be­hind after four years that have passed like a whirl­wind”

Women’s World­tour started un­der Cookson

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