UCI President discusses future and credibility in cycling at World Congress – Richmond Times-Dispatch

UCI President Brian Cookson said Friday professional cycling must continue working to re-establish its credibility if it hopes to remain viable with fans, sponsors and broadcasters.

“The last two years have not been easy. In bringing our sport back from a very difficult era, we have faced many challenges,” he said.

“But when I reflect on all that we have achieved together, I can say with confidence that we have made a strong start on the process of renewal — our sport is growing, is healthy, and we have real cause for optimism.”

Cookson, who is British, spoke Friday at the 184th UCI Congress held in Richmond as a part of the 2015 Road World Championships.

The speech, which marked the halfway point of his four-year term, summed up what had been accomplished in the first two years and set out his agenda for the next two.

Chief among those was creation of the Women’s World Tour, announced this week and beginning in March, to help grow women’s cycling and restore the sport’s reputation.

Cookson also discussed highlights from the past year, including the fact 120 events took place in 28 countries, and noted “an incredible explosion in cycling’s popularity as it becomes the preferred way to get to work or exercise.”

“We don’t forget that cycling is not just a competitive sport. It is also an enjoyable, healthy pastime and an environmentally friendly way to get about,” he said.

“Governments across the globe are now grasping the huge public health benefits from integrating cycling into their transport plans.”

Cookson said one of the requirements for bidding for a world championship now includes a condition that everyday cycling be included in a city’s plan.

He pointed to Richmond’s efforts as an example of what cities can do to encourage cycling in a community. This, he said, includes new bike lanes and goals to ensure that, by 2025, 1 out of every 10 trips taken in Richmond is by bike.

“This is certainly the ambitious approach we want to see from our major event hosts,” he said.

Still, much of Friday’s speech was devoted to UCI’s efforts to clean up the sport.

Cookson was elected in 2013 by campaigning on an anti-doping platform and pushing for investigations into corruption in the sport.

He said Friday one of the first things he did upon taking office was to re-establish the sport’s relationship with the World Anti-Doping Agency and create independent anti-doping procedures.

“We have more open and transparent relationships in place with national anti-doping organizations and a more intelligent testing strategy,” he said. “This means, together, we are in a much better place to catch the cheats who blight our sport.”

As part of his efforts, Cookson established the Cycling Independent Reform Commission to investigate doping in cycling and allegations that UCI may have been involved in previous wrongdoing.

The report, released in March, severely criticized UCI for failing to act during the doping era dominated by Lance Armstrong, but the 227-page report found no evidence Armstrong paid to cover up alleged positive tests.

The report also found many riders believe doping still is widespread as athletes adapt to evade new tests and detection methods.

“Some of the report made uncomfortable reading for us,” Cookson said. “But we had to acknowledge that lessons needed to be learned.”

Cookson was asked after the speech about Armstrong and the damage done to the sport. Cookson refused to refer to the disgraced American cyclist by name.

“The person you mention has got far too much publicity over the years,” he said. “Clearly this was a very damaging era for us. I’ve said on a number of occasions that those who ignore the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. We have to learn lessons.”

Cookson said in his speech it was time to move on and the focus now is on the future.

He said the organization is implementing recommendations from the CIRC report, including establishment of a storage and retesting strategy; working with World Anti-Doping Agency and other experts to analyze new substances and trends; and implementing nighttime testing.

“In short, we are ensuring an intelligence-led approach that will increase the effectiveness of the testing program,” Cookson said.


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