Published January 21, 2014
UCI President Brian Cookson says governing body is funding independent commission because "nobody else will."
Int’l Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson said that the primary goal of the recently announced independent commission "is restoring the reputation of the sport." Cookson, who was elected UCI president in late September, created a three-member panel that will look into allegations of wrongdoing within the governing body. Cookson told SBD Global, "[Cycling] has been so damaged by recent controversies. We’ve never really got to the bottom of the allegations that have been made about the UCI’s alleged collusion and so on, and I think it’s really important that we do that." The "Cycling Independent Reform Commission," whose members have experience in investigations and int’l crime networks, will look into cycling’s most recent era, when the most damage has been done to its reputation. Cookson said that the "Festina affair," which occurred during and after the 1998 Tour de France, seems to be a good starting point for the commission inquiry. "The terms under which the commission will operate will be decided ultimately by them. We’ve given them some broad guidelines; we’ve given them a budget. But I don’t want to stop the commission from going further back than that if it wants to." The commission will try to talk to Cookson’s predecessors, Hein Verbruggen (1991-2005) and Pat McQuaid (2005-2013), who both have been accused of corruption and cover-up during cycling's EPO era. Unlike Lance Armstrong, who said that he will cooperate with the investigation, it is unclear if McQuaid and Verbruggen will provide evidence. Cookson did not consult his predecessors as he thought it would have been inappropriate to discuss the matter with them. "I think it’s important that we have a clean break and that we look into the investigations and allegations of the era in which they were both presidents in a way that is entirely impartial." He also said that it was important to establish the commission in a way that is acceptable to the broader int'l sporting family, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, the IOC and the rest of the people involved in cycling.
PICKING UP THE TAP:
While Cookson reassured that the panel will have complete autonomy and will have access to all UCI documents, communications and other information, the issue of it being completely funded by the UCI leaves some doubt about its independence. "We are funding them because nobody else will fund it, frankly," Cookson said. It has been reported that the UCI will spend around 3M Swiss francs ($3.3M) on the investigation. This is a considerable amount taking into account that the UCI's average annual expenses are around 6M-8M Swiss francs ($6.6M-$8.8M), according to VeloNews. Cookson: "My management committee has agreed that it is important to allocate a serious amount of money to do it but not an unlimited amount of money." He said that the organization will have to take some money out of its reserves and perhaps not build them as high as it hoped over the next few years. Despite this financial burden on the UCI, Cookson said, "I think it’s absolutely essential that we did it."