Brian Cookson was elected president of the UCI on Friday, defeating incumbent Pat McQuaid after a contentious campaign to take over cycling’s governing body in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The British Cycling president beat McQuaid 24-18 in a secret ballot.
There were questions over McQuaid’s eligibility after his home country, Ireland, and Switzerland, where he lives, withdrew support, but he was ultimately allowed to run with nominations from Thailand and Morocco.
“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,” Cookson said immediately after the results were announced inside the historic Palazzo Vecchio.
“The campaign to get to this point has been intense but I am under no illusion that the real work starts now,” Cookson said.
My first priorities as president will be to make anti-doping procedures in cycling fully independent... and work with WADA to ensure a swift investigation into cycling's doping culture
“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 to ensure a swift investigation into cycling’s doping culture.”
Cookson also wants to set up a so-called “truth and reconciliation” commission to encourage riders, team officials and others with knowledge of cycling’s doping past to come forward. He has warned that team managers who have been tied to or admitted doping during their careers as athletes could no longer have a place in the sport.
Cookson acknowledged the bitter moments of the campaign but thanked McQuaid “for the contribution he has made to cycling during his long career.”
“I wish him well in whatever he goes on to do,” Cookson said.
McQuaid was first elected in 2005 and was seeking a third-four year term despite accusations that the UCI covered up Armstrong’s doping during his tenure in charge. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year and banned from the sport for life after acknowledging that he doped.
After Friday’s vote and Cookson’s speech, McQuaid briefly congratulated the winner and then continued with the congress’ agenda.
McQuaid’s status hinged on the interpretation of an article of the UCI constitution which states, “The candidates for the presidency shall be nominated by the federation of the candidate.”
There was a long debate over McQuaid’s eligibility, with numerous delegates speaking from the floor after a series of lawyers addressed the case.
Eventually, Cookson got up and said: “We’ve had enough of this. I’m going to propose that we go straight to the vote between the two candidates.” And then the vote went ahead.
Earlier, there was a loud debate over an amendment that would have allowed an incumbent president to stand for re-election without nomination. It was met with loud resistance from the floor and a vote was held to delay considering the amendment for a year.
The vote ended 21-21 but a majority was needed so the amendment was not considered.
Pieter Zevenbergen, the president of the UCI ethics commission, said his committee had examined five cases related to the election. Two of them, one concerning an alleged $34,000 bribe offered to the Greek federation and the other involving allegations against McQuaid from Russian cycling federation president Igor Makarov, could not be examined due to
refusals of those concerned, he said.
“We are of the opinion that congress should consider these two (cases) before going to election,” Zevenbergen said.
Many delegates appeared to agree with Zevenbergen, but Cookson’s move to end the debate won out.