Vero Communications released a work of art on behalf of Brian Cookson, attempting to wash away the historical narrative of the UCI presidential candidate. Thankfully, the worldwide web keeps the narrative archived on our behalf.
Cookson’s manifesto is a shocking about-face on several topics the British Cycling supremo has declared his position. Alastair Hamilton of Pez Cycling News agreed with this September 2, when he sounded off on the Cookson platform and ringing endorsements,
It all sound very reasonable, but it is easy to say these things before you’re elected, I guess we will have to wait and see.
Which Cookson would cycling get if he were elected? The one from before his candidacy announcement in June, or the one who is from the following historical quotes?
Nicole Cook’s retirement speech
Cook sounded off on a variety of topics, and the full content of her retirement speech can be found here. The most interesting quote was her take on Cookson’s refusal to institute a women’s minimum wage, nor entertain a women’s minimum wage in his capacity as UCI Road Commission president. This happened in Autumn of 2012,
To employ a “cleaner” or a youngster to wash up at a bar, an employer must pay a minimum wage. The UCI Road Commission headed by British Cycling’s Brian Cookson has stated that whilst a minimum wage is required for all male professionals, female riders do not deserve this. Only as recently as this October the commission rejected this simple request. There are two aspects of this case. One is straightforward and moral.
Women’s cycling has declined through each year of my career. It is not a sustainable business model.
Cookson had the opportunity to further the role of women’s cycling as president of British Cycling, but chose not to, and even fought the UCI’s decision to offer equal events for men and women beginning in 2012. As he was on the advisory board of Team Sky, and if he was such a proponent of women’s cycling, why hasn’t Team Sky launched a women’s program? Victoria Pendleton’s comments in her biography about Cookson’s attitude towards women competitors rings true. Why hasn’t he apologized for his past transgressions when it comes to women’s cycling? Instead, he would rather champion an opportunity to gain public accolades for his stance.
Cookson “100% supportive” of McQuaid
As reported in Cycling Weekly by Richard Abraham, Martyn Ziegler of Cycling Sports Portal, and Trevor Baxter of the Manchester Evening News, Cookson was dead against running for the presidency as of January 2013.
Campaigning for the post isn’t something you can plan quickly, as Cookson has attempted to portray. What happened to his position on McQuaid between February and June? A campaign of this sort requires long term planning, sometimes years, to ensure a candidate has the support of the congressional voters. It isn’t a popularity contest, where public opinion controls and determines victory, it is a contest decided by an elite group of educated cycling politicians.
In January, Cookson’s remarks on McQuaid were as follows:
“There’s not a vacancy and I’m not a candidate…. I’m 100% supportive of Pat McQuaid and I think speculation is unhelpful at this stage when there are some delicate negotiations underway.”
“When you think what the UCI has done in the last few years, pursuing offenders when other sports have let people off on the flimsiest of excuses…. I think the UCI has got a good record in anti-doping that Pat can be proud of. I know that’s not a popular line but its true.”
Was Cookson truly supportive of McQuaid? Instead, was he buying time in order to network with the right people in the cycling world to determine if he should run, like Igor Makarov and Wojciech Walkiewicz? Was he planning his run in 2012? Is this the sort of duplicitous leadership cycling can expect from a Cookson regime? In this day and age, one doesn’t simply switch on a campaign on whim and a moment’s notice, especially when you have employed Vero Communications.
“As far as Britain is concerned, we strongly support president McQuaid in his stance on the anti-doping measures, and we understand the legal difficulties encountered in dealing effectively with such matters.”
Cookson on the Pro Tour in 2008
Cookson has a history of being unable to take a solid position when it is needed. Take his comments at the February 2008 UEC meeting where the feud between the UCI and the ASO took center stage,
I think this is a clear and coherent resolution which will help all sides to bring this crisis to a speedy conclusion. It acknowledges that the ProTour has been a problematic and divisive structure which needs a major re-think, but at the same time, it emphasises that the democratic structures that we have all put in place over the years to govern our sport, must be respected.
The resolution asked the French cycling federation to block the ASO from operating outside the UCI rules, asked for a review of the ProTour. It didn’t happen, and the battle between the UCI and the ASO hit a fever pitch, with the UCI suspending the French Federation for allowing the Tour to operate outside UCI guidelines.
Who was the French president? Jean Pitallier, who just publicly backed Cookson. Is Pitallier’s backing of Cookson revenge for 2008? It can’t be in support of Cookson, as the British Cycling head was nowhere to be found that July during the civil war. He certainly didn’t support or defend his comments from February during the summer of 2008.
Cookson thought the ProTour needed a “rethink” in 2008, but didn’t offer any leadership in this area from 2008 until June 2013. He had an opportunity to do so, as UCI Road Commission president, but didn’t offer any solutions during his tenure.
“The idea they accepted money from Lance at the height of his success for anti-doping education and equipment was certainly an error of judgement and I cannot imagine what they were thinking at the time. But I am not going to be calling for Hein Verbruggen’s resignation. I think mistakes were made during the Lance Armstrong era, but it was a difficult time because EPO was then undetectable.”
Cookson made these comments to the Daily Record in January of 2013. In spite of the supposed Bergen Secret Dossier (84 days and still no information) he still hasn’t called for anyone to resign, instead focusing his energy to support troublemakers trying to subvert the democratic process. He is now saying undetectable EPO and those mistakes during the Armstrong era make him the superior candidate.
Bias for his pet disciplines?
Cookson made his bias for British medals, and for supposed cycling tradition when he blasted the removal of 1 km Time Trial from the Olympics for 2008 to make way for BMX. As a key cycling leader, shouldn’t Cookson have put aside his bias to do what was best to grow the sport? Didn’t BMX deserve to have exposure at the Olympics? Cookson didn’t think so, as he has resisted almost every change to the Olympic cycling program during his time as BC supremo. If he is a proponent for revolutionizing cycling, he certainly hasn’t demonstrated leadership and innovative thinking in the past,
“The decision does not stand up to any rational analysis…. No-one who witnessed the incredible atmosphere in the Athens velodrome (last summer) could ever have believed that the men’s and women’s kilo were somehow unworthy of inclusion in the Olympic programme…. I understand the needs of the IOC to keep the Games to a manageable size, but I do not feel that this decision assists in that objective at all…. Rather, I feel that it causes a major loss to the heritage of the Games and major problems for the Olympic family of nations, for no significant benefit to anyone…. Great Britain has provided the gold medallists for the men’s kilo time trial for the last two Olympics (Jason Queally in 2000 and Hoy in 2004) and we were optimistic of success in Beijing.”
BMX was of no significance to Cookson in 2005 and he was more distraught about Hoy losing a gold medal opportunity.
Cookson does not have the history as a game changer or innovative thinker during his career in cycling administration. Cookson has fought against changes to the Olympic program which allowed BMX and women to have a chance to compete at the top level of competition in the biggest sporting event in the world. Cookson has changed his position continually on Armstrong, and the controversy surrounding Armstrong. Cookson refused to be vocal and act on his comments in relation to the UCI versus ASO feud of 2008.
The Cookson campaign is a sham attempting to take advantage of a cycling public thirsting for change. Cookson has done his best to keep his head down, rather than lead. He is attempting to capitalize on a discontented segment of the cycling world world which has gained a loud voice from a small group.
The public should think twice about the change Cookson is pushing. Is it real, or just empty campaign promises? History shows more empty than real.