UCI chief Cookson hits back at critics

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Brian Cookson is seeking re-election as president of cycling’s world governing body

Brian Cookson says he could not ask for “better endorsements” of his bid to remain as president of cycling’s world governing body than men he claims took the sport to “the brink of disaster”.

The Briton will take on French vice-president David Lappartient in September’s UCI presidential election.

Cookson has been called a “fraud” by predecessor Pat McQuaid, and criticised by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

“Frankly, I don’t want their support,” the 66-year-old told BBC Sport.

“I couldn’t want better endorsements that neither Lance Armstrong nor Pat McQuaid like what I’ve been doing with cycling.

“They are the people who, in their own different ways, took cycling to the brink of disaster.”

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in 2012 following a US Anti-Doping investigation into systematic doping, with the American later admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs.

McQuaid, meanwhile, was among those heavily criticised in a landmark report published in 2015 into the sport’s troubled recent history.

Cookson had criticised the Irishman’s handling of the Armstrong scandal, prior to beating him in an acrimonious presidential campaign in 2013.

Both McQuaid and Armstrong are backing Lappartient, with the latter posting the message “ABC (Anybody But Cookson)” on social media.

‘I took British Cycling from meltdown to success’

Cookson, president of British Cycling from 1996 to 2013, was criticised last month in a report that said the organisation lacked good governance at board level, and a “culture of fear” existed within the team.

Culture, Media and Sport select committee chairman Damian Collins said those failings meant Cookson should not be re-elected UCI president.

Cookson said: “I’ve never met Damian Collins, he’s never spoken to me, never telephoned me, never written to me, never asked for any contribution from me, so I find it a little strange that he feels able to make that kind of comment.

“I took British Cycling – with the help of many good people – from something of a meltdown, close to bankruptcy and one Olympic gold medal in 76 years to being one of the major sports in Great Britain, where we win six, seven, eight gold medals every Olympic Games and where Britain has more people riding bikes than ever before.”

Cookson added “people around the world” were surprised British Cycling – as “one of the most successful organisations in sport” – was being criticised, but was confident the organisation had learned “important” lessons.

He said he should instead be judged on “four years of progress” at the UCI, and having built a “splendid reputation” with the International Olympic Committee.

In 2013, IOC member Dick Pound said cycling could be dropped from the Games had Armstrong implicated the UCI in a cover-up, but extra cycling events have been added to the 2020 Olympic programme in Tokyo.

‘The UCI is not some provincial French town’

Cookson leadership ‘not at the level expected’

Earlier this month, Lappartient told BBC Sport that Cookson’s leadership had been “poor” and “lacked a clear vision”.

Cookson said he was “not concerned” with the 44-year-old’s views, and was focused on delivering his six-point manifesto.

“I don’t need any lessons in leadership from David Lappartient,” Cookson said.

“He needs to understand how a large international organisation works – it’s not like a small town in provincial France, it’s much more complicated than that.”

Cookson added he did not envisage a “bruising” presidential contest, in the manner of his 2013 victory over McQuaid.

He said: “I’ll be respectful of the other candidate and expect the same in return – cycling doesn’t need a slanging match.”

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