Astana Cleared to Race

astana_newsAstana have been cleared to race by the UCI despite president Brian Cookson requesting a withdrawal of the team’s WorldTour licence – the independent UCI Licence Commission has decided to allow them to continue racing.


Astana was granted a provisional WordTour licence in December and subjected to an independent audit. The Commission is now said to be satisfied that a ‘reorganisation of all the support personnel of its riders in order to strengthen its fight against doping” meets it’s requirements. The Kazah team will keep its existing registration as long as it complies with “special measures.’


However, the results of the audit, carried out by the Sport Sciences Institute of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL), raised some red flags, including a continued relationship with banned trainer Michele Ferrari.


Cookson’s original position that ‘Teams have to take their responsibilities very, very seriously in terms of how they monitor riders, how they support riders and coach riders’ included a nod to the Ferrari rumours reported by Gazzetta dello Sport, ‘Others who are allegedly floating around on the sidelines, the people who have been banned, there are rumours that they are still acting as intermediaries, it is a warning to them as well.’


The trigger for the original enquiry was a pair of WorldTour team riders testing positive for EPO and several doping cases in its Continental affiliate. Both events raised concerns about the team’s overall structure and ethics.


Cookson said, in conclusion, that the situation was ‘very frustrating, but we had to work with legal tools and I had to accept that.’ The announcement finally clears the way for Vincenzo Nibali to defend his 2014 Tour de France title without fear of exclusion.


Cycling Independent Reform Commission Report

UCIThe landmark Cycling Independent Reform Commission (Circ) Report has heavily criticised the sport’s leadership during the 1990s and 2000s in its 227-page report. Whilst it broadly cleared the International Cycling Union bosses of ‘outright corruption’ it pulls no punches when it comes to highlighting a damning range of failings including the effective turning of a blind eye to all but the most serious of doping offences. The report, compiled at a cost of over £2m by chairman Dr Dick Marty and two vice-chairs – Professor Ulrich Haas and Peter Nicholson – specifically highlights preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong.


Other findings, the result of interviews with over 170 people including riders and anti-doping experts, included the fact that the use of ‘weight-loss drugs, experimental medicine and powerful painkillers’ is widespread, that doping in amateur cycling remains ‘endemic’ and that other, non-drug related, forms of cheating relating to equipment is still on the rise.


The current UCI president Brian Cookson, who took office in 2013 largely on a clean-sweep and zero-tolerance ticket, responded to the report by saying, ‘It is clear that in the past the UCI suffered severely from a lack of good governance with individuals taking crucial decisions alone. Many (of these decisions) undermined anti-doping efforts; put the UCI in an extraordinary position of proximity to certain riders; and wasted a lot of its time and resources in open conflict with organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).’


The full Cycling Independent Reform Commission Report can be read here.


Lance Armstrong Accuses Hein Verbruggen

lance_armstrongLance Armstrong has told the Daily Mail newspaper that former UCI (International Cycling Union) president Hein Verbruggen not only knew about his doping but helped to cover his tracks. The Texan – who was stripped of his numerous titles including seven Tour de France wins after finally confessing to a lifetime of cheating – told the newspaper’s Sportsmail section that Verbruggen aided him in avoiding a ban back in 1999 by agreeing to lay the blame for a positive test on a prescription for a steroid cream to treat saddle sores which was then backdated.


Armstrong’s latest salvo naturally contradicts Verbruggen’s version of events who continues to deny any wrongdoing – in a letter to the UCI earlier this month which marked the end of his tenure as ‘honorary president’ he wrote: ‘I have never acted inappropriately and my conscience is absolutely clean… With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt.’


Armstrong, of course, is trying to fight his way out of a corner and clearly holds no elegance to the former heads of the sport’s governing body despite the prospect of being part of a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process initiated by incoming president Brian Cookson – cooperation holds the potential of his lifetime ban being reduced to as little as eight years. But speaking to Sportsmail he said emphatically, ‘I’m not going to lie to protect these guys. I hate them. They threw me under the bus. I’m done with them.’



UCI Moves Forward Under Brian Cookson

brian_coookson_2The newly appointed president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) Brian Cookson has been setting out his stall and implementing his election manifesto promises. Cookson, who had pledged to restore trust in the UCI, has already contacted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to start the process of an independent investigation into the UCI’s somewhat chequered history under the leadership of previous presidential incumbent Pat McQuaid. Commenting on developments Cookson says, ‘We’ve started the work of establishing dialogue with Wada to plan how we will proceed with the independent investigation into the UCI’s past… We have also been making contact with other key stakeholders in this area, including USADA (the United States Anti-Doping Authority), other national anti-doping organisations and the French sports ministry.’


Cookson has also confirmed that the UCI has also withdrawn legal proceedings, initiated by his predecessors, against journalist Paul Kimmage, who alleged he had defamed them.


In further excellent news for women’s cycling (coming on the back of the decision to award the Women’s Tour of Britain a level-pegging 2.1 status for its launch in 2014), Cookson has confirmed the decision to revoke the age limit of 28 for UCI women’s teams and to form a new commission specifically to facilitate the growth of women’s elite cycling.


Cookson, a prolific engager in social media – a welcome seachange from McQuaid’s ‘closed doors’ operation – tweeted: ‘It’s been a busy and important time for me & the ?#UCI. Thanks to all for the support I’ve received in setting out on this new path.’ You can follow Brian Cookson on Twitter @BrianCooksonUCI



Women’s Tour of Britain

Lizzie Armistead BBC SuperstarsThe International Cycling Union (UCI) has given the Women’s Tour of Britain a 2.1 status for its launch in 2014. The classification is significant for a number of reasons: firstly it puts the event on a par with some of the highest-rated women’s races in the world (and with the men’s ToB), in turn this will ensure a top-flight of riders –meaning, for viewers and followers, a more dramatic spectacle – and finally it potentially makes the future staging of a Women’s Tour de France that much more likely.


The Women’s Tour of Britain, officially entitled The Women’s Tour, will begin on Wednesday May 7 with the Grand Depart in Northamptonshire and conclude on Sunday May 14; the location of the other four stages of this five-stage event have yet to be revealed.


Commenting on the announcement British Cycling’s Director of Cyclesport Jonny Clay said: ‘The Women’s Tour will be a fantastic addition to the British racing calendar next year… We worked with SweetSpot (the event organisers) to identify the best calendar slot and lobbied the UCI for the highest category a start up event could attain. The fact that the event has been granted 2.1 status, putting it in the top echelon of races, is welcome news.’ Guy Elliott, director SweetSpot, added: ‘We are absolutely delighted that the UCI have awarded us 2.1 status for this exciting new event.’


Last July, it was announced that SweetSpot would continue in its role as delivery partner for the Tour of Britain after being awarded a new five-year deal with British Cycling, to begin in 2014.



Brian Cookson Elected UCI President

brian_coookson_2After a long and deeply acrimonious campaign, Brian Cookson has been elected president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), defeating Pat McQuaid who was seeking re-election for his third term. 61-year-old Cookson defeated the incumbent 24 votes to 18.


Brian Cookson has been in charge of British Cycling for more than a decade and a half, presiding over a complete change in the sport’s fortunes that has seen GB win 19 Olympic and 28 Paralympic Golds and enjoy two back-to-back Tour de France victories. He fought his campaign for election at the UCI largely on the anti-corruption/doping and ‘clean-sweep’ ticket, with McQuaid easily portrayed as the old-guard, whose reticence when it came to transparency (let alone change) ultimately proving his undoing.


Speaking after his election at the UCI’s Annual General Congress in Florence, Cookson said, ‘It is a huge honour to have been elected President of the UCI by my peers and I would like to thank them for the trust they have placed in me today… I have said throughout my campaign that we must embrace a new style of governance and a collegiate way of working so that a new era of growth and commercial success for the UCI and our sport can begin.’


Immediately capitalising on his anti-doping stance Cookson continued, ‘My first priorities as President will be to make anti-doping procedures in cycling fully independent, sit together with key stakeholders in the sport and work with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) to ensure a swift investigation into cycling’s doping culture… It is by doing these things that we will build a firm platform to restore the reputation of our International Federation with sponsors, broadcasters, funding partners, host cities and the International Olympic Committee. Ultimately this is how we grow our sport worldwide and get more riders and fans drawn into cycling.’


You can read Cyclo’s original election feature on Brian Cookson here.



Pat McQuaid Loses Swiss Backing

Pat McQuaid Loses Swiss BackingPat McQuaid’s ambitions for a third term as president of the UCI (International Cycling Union) has further faltered with the announcement that Swiss Cycling has withdrawn their support of him. Irishman McQuaid, who lives in Switzerland, had sought their support after Cycling Ireland voted against his nomination in June at an extraordinary general meeting with 74 in favour and 91 against the motion: ‘That Mr. Pat McQuaid be and is hereby nominated by Cycling Ireland to stand as a candidate for the Presidency of the UCI at the 2013 UCI Congress and that the said nomination be executed and submitted forthwith by the Board of this Company’. Although he is (currently) backed by both Thailand and Morocco, a third federation nomination is required under the UCI constitution, a rule that McQuaid is currently trying to amend amidst bitter legal arguments.


Standing against Pat McQuaid is Brian Cookson who has been President of the British Cycling Federation for some 16 years. In a statement on his campaign website ( Cookson says: ‘This latest development is of real significance to the Presidential election process. It leaves Mr McQuaid in a very difficult position, particularly when viewed alongside his failure to receive a nomination from his own national federation as required under the constitution of the UCI… It also places further question marks against his other ‘nominations’ whose validity is in serious doubt and remain a matter of genuine concern to many in the cycling world.’


He continues, ‘No attempts at manipulation and legal bluster can take away the doubts and questions. The important principle in any democracy is that you must respect the rules as they are, not how you’d like them to be. My hope remains that we have a democratic process based on the rules of the race when it started rather than those made up half way through.’


Read the Cyclo feature on Brian Cookson here.


Featured Features

Brian Cookson: President-in-Waiting

Brian Cookson for President-in-WaitingThis September could see a mayor sea change at the very highest echelons of international cycling – a time, that in years to come, might be looked back upon as a true ‘fresh start’ for a sport whose history is so tarnished by revelations of drug abuse and doping. Whilst Pat McQuaid has held the position of President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) since 2005, his often-reticent position on doping and faltering stance on transparency within the organisation has led many to believe that the time is right for a changing of the guard. The only man standing against McQuaid in this two-horse (bike?) race is Brian Cookson OBE; Cyclo takes a look at the man and his mission…


Born in 1951, Cookson was a club-level cyclist across road, track, cyclo-cross and mountain biking and a regional Road Champion (1971) to boot. He was a UCI International Commissaire from 1986 until 2009 when he became a member of UCI Management Committee and President of both the UCI Cyclo-Cross Commission and Road Commission. Aside from his work with the Union Cycliste Internationale, and perhaps more crucially to what he will bring afresh to the Presidency, Cookson has been President of the British Cycling Federation for some 16 years. Under his leadership GB’s governing body has gone from near-bankruptcy to the envy of the world with 19 Olympic Golds, 28 Paralympic Golds, innumerable road, track, BMX and MTB medals for the likes of Cavendish, Hoy, Pendleton, Kenny and Trott. Not to mention two Tour de France winners in the shape of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.


Having announced his intention of standing against McQuaid, Cookson revealed his broad-stroke manifesto – entitled ‘Restoring Trust, Leading Change’ – in Paris on June 24. In a far-reaching and ambitious statement of intent Cookson committed to strengthening anti-doping measures, rebuilding trust in the UCI as a governing body, growing the global profile of the sport whilst developing women’s cycling and overhauling the World Tour structure.




On the issue of doping Cookson says ‘(it) has robbed our sport of its credibility too many times…’ and he underlines the importance of true independence for an anti-doping unit. Crucially for the credibility of the UCI he will also look to end what he calls the ‘public feuding’ with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the other national agencies that has led to so much public laundering in recent years. In what is perhaps the first step towards reconciliation with WADA Cookson is fully in support of the agency’s proposals to increase the length of bans from two to four years for doping offences.




For years the UCI has done itself little favour in the public eye with its behind-closed-doors mentality and reluctance for plain talk, making it a permanently teetering house of cards. Amongst Cookson’s plans for a reboot are the publication of the President’s remuneration and potential conflicts, an independent investigation into UCI corruption charges and, with possibly the most far-reaching potential, riders’ representation on the UCI board which will see increased roles for the UCI Athletes Commission and Professional Cyclists’ Association.


Global Growth


The ‘I’ in UCI does, after all, stand for ‘International’ and Cookson’s eye is very much on the global stage with plans to establish an International Development Department, properly funded and structured to roll out ‘best practices’ to satellite projects and join up the dots thus-far left dangling. As well as looking to support increased para-cyclist events internationally there is also a commitment to work with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to increase athlete quotas and champion the return of both individual pursuit and the points races.


Women’s Cycling


The many inequalities in women’s cycling have been brought to the fore in recent months by the campaign by the likes of World Champion Emma Pooley, Dutch superstar Marianne Vos and World Ironman Triathlon Champion Chrissie Wellington to reintroduce a Women’s Tour de France. Whilst Cookson doesn’t mention the TdF specifically he does pledge to: ‘create new opportunities for women’s cycling? in all disciplines, particularly the professional road scene…’ and, crucially, acknowledges how vital the role of broadcast media coverage is for long-term success. With a further pledge to fully integrate women into every level of management within the UCI – including ‘at least one woman on every UCI Commission’ – we could, finally, see meaningful moves towards equality in a sport that has so many shining examples of female athletes.


Overhauled Road Racing


This is perhaps more ‘nuts and bolts’ and less headline grabbing than other areas of the manifesto but creating a more ‘compelling narrative’ through the UCI calendar, with less direct emphasis on the big individual events, will certainly help drive the future of the sport. By making the events calendar more linear it will demystify proceedings and help bring cycling to a wider fan-base.


Elections for the Presidency of the UCI will take place at the Annual Congress in Florence, in September. To find out more about Brian Cookson and to read his manifesto in full see – in the interest of balance ‘other candidates are available.’