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Opinion - Cookson: The zero communication strategy

By:
Jean-François Quénet
UCI Presidential candidate Brian Cookson

UCI Presidential candidate Brian Cookson

  • UCI Presidential candidate Brian Cookson
  • UCI President Pat McQuaid at the UCI headquarters in Aigle

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On January 6, 2011, the short-lived team manager of Leopard-Trek, Brian Nygaard, made this comment: "I honestly think there's a lot of bullshit in cycling."

There's more to come with the election of the UCI president scheduled for September this year.

While many voices are calling for a change after eight years of governance from Pat McQuaid, citing corruption and conflicts of interest, candidate Brian Cookson gave a perfect example of someone who promises transparency but delivers the opposite when questions arise.

Asked by Cyclingnews about his opinion over the "closed league," or so called "Champions League" of cycling, for which businessman Zdenek Bakala signed a memorandum of understanding with the UCI, Cookson answered: "There are things we can do for Elite pro road cycling. I don't rule anything out. I don't rule anything in. We can find some solutions but we don't have immediate answers."

However Cyclingnews understands from different sources that Cookson has been encourages to put his hand up as a candidate by national federations from Belgium, France and Italy in order to strongly fight against the project of a "closed league", something that Cookson denied.

Given the opportunity to distance himself from Hein Verbruggen and the possible close connections the former UCI president has had with Lance Armstrong and his entourage, Cookson said: "I don't know Hein very well. He hasn't attended any UCI management committee meeting I've been to in the past four years."

Questioned by Cyclingnews about Verbruggen's role in setting up the Tour of Beijing and setting up various commissions in the past four years, Cookson admitted he knew about Beijing but answered the other part of the question by saying, "If he has had other involvements with the UCI, it's not with my knowledge or consent." This doesn't sound like a major change from the words of the current direction of cycling governing body.

Questioned by Cyclingnews if he's seeking a post as temporary UCI president before the UEC (European Cycling Union) president [David Lappartient] takes over in four years time, Cookson answered: "David is a good friend of mine." But he avoided the matter by saying that he has to be elected for a first term before thinking of a second one. Even though it won't be official until the UEC holds a meeting in mid-September, Cyclingnews understands that Cookson is the candidate supported by the UEC and the Oceania confederation while McQuaid is more popular in Asia and Africa. The PanAmerican confederation has yet to determine who is their champion in the race.

Cookson was adamant that he's "not manipulated by anyone" but admitted to have had "short conversations" with Jaimie Fuller and Antoine Vayer from the activist group Change Cycling Now. "I think it's important they contribute to future analysis," he added. Therefore, the 62 year-old is building his campaign on both sides of the story: the success of British Cycling and the suspicions voiced by Vayer over the performances of Team Sky. "No team is above scrutiny," he said when confronted to his contradiction.

As the first point of his program is to rebuild trust in the UCI, Cookson left the Radisson hotel in Paris without having convinced the reporters that he's the right man to do so. While people who back him criticize the UCI for having spent more than 3 million euros on the short-lived "Lance Armstrong commission," he has remained vague on a number of subjects. Advised by VERO Communications, Cookson has opted for a zero communication strategy, as he did on twitter on Saturday.

On March 10, 2007, also in Paris, the UCI introduced a "100% against doping" programme with a banner showing an image Danilo Di Luca. Six years later, Cookson chose the same city because that's where the UCI was created in 1900. On the brochure he distributed to the journalists the main rider on the biggest picture wore the colors of the Farnese Vini team, now called Vini Fantini - the team that have returned positive tests of Mauro Santambrogio and Di Luca. Same place, different speaker, same laughs.

 

Jean-François Quénet is a freelance sports journalist with 25 years of experience in covering cycling, including 36 Grands Tours. He has served as a media officer at three Olympic Games. Originally from France, he has a world wide view on the sport after having reported from America, Africa, Australia and Asia for different publications.

EvoDavo More than 1 year ago
The French don't like him? I like him more every day !!
biker jk More than 1 year ago
Seems you have no counter to the reporters valid concerns and criticisms.
igamogam More than 1 year ago
Good point but by the same token journalists views are no more valid than yours or mine. People might read what journos say but the reality is that half the time their opinions are just plain wrong.
martinvickers More than 1 year ago
Well, let's actually take a look at these "valid concerns" "Asked by Cyclingnews about his opinion over the "closed league," or so called "Champions League" of cycling, for which businessman Zdenek Bakala signed a memorandum of understanding with the UCI, Cookson answered: "There are things we can do for Elite pro road cycling. I don't rule anything out. I don't rule anything in. We can find some solutions but we don't have immediate answers." However Cyclingnews understands from different sources that Cookson has been encourages to put his hand up as a candidate by national federations from Belgium, France and Italy in order to strongly fight against the project of a "closed league", something that Cookson denied." So it seems he DID answer that question. He refused to rule anything out, and he denied an anonymous accusation. He answered; The writer just didn't like the answer. Tough. and anyone following this game knows that Cookson's motivations are pretty obvious; basically getting rid of Pat. I fear a french journo looking at his own french navel is assuming Cookson cares about French cycling politics, wrongly. Plus ca change. 2. "Given the opportunity to distance himself from Hein Verbruggen and the possible close connections the former UCI president has had with Lance Armstrong and his entourage, Cookson said: "I don't know Hein very well. He hasn't attended any UCI management committee meeting I've been to in the past four years." So, given the opportunity to distance himself from Verbruggen, he...took it. Wow. How is that not an answer? 3. "Questioned by Cyclingnews about Verbruggen's role in setting up the Tour of Beijing and setting up various commissions in the past four years, Cookson admitted he knew about Beijing but answered the other part of the question by saying, "If he has had other involvements with the UCI, it's not with my knowledge or consent." This doesn't sound like a major change from the words of the current direction of cycling governing body." "This doesn't sound...?" Maybe this is an "English as a second language problem" for the cycling-news writer, but this is meaningless! Cookson couldn't be clearer - I have nothing to do with Hein, nor him with me. What more could he have said? 4. "Cookson was adamant that he's "not manipulated by anyone" but admitted to have had "short conversations" with Jaimie Fuller and Antoine Vayer from the activist group Change Cycling Now. "I think it's important they contribute to future analysis," he added. Therefore, the 62 year-old is building his campaign on both sides of the story: the success of British Cycling and the suspicions voiced by Vayer over the performances of Team Sky. "No team is above scrutiny," he said when confronted to his contradiction." Admitted?? like it's a bad thing? It's bloody EXCELLENT he's listening to these outsiders - it's a plus!! and "no team is above scrutiny" - he's literally willing to meet and talk with people who have doubts about him, and agrees that his own team should be questioned and scrutinised. this is a bad thing? Seriously, what planet is this writer on? Dear god, if McQuaid had shown 1/4 of that willingness with Kimmage (who Cookson has also promised to speak to) we might well not even be here! "5. As the first point of his program is to rebuild trust in the UCI, Cookson left the Radisson hotel in Paris without having convinced the reporters that he's the right man to do so." Well, He needs to convince the voting delegates, and in he longer term, he needs to convince the teams, riders and most of all fans - but convincing a cackle of french media with their noses out of joint? Absolutely not. Would be hard pressed to think of a group of people whose views matters less. This is a one issue election - doping. And what seems to have upset the writer, given the prominence he gives it, is that French political interests will not be given pride of place. Well, frankly, screw french political interests. who gives a damn? The sheer insularity and frankly selfish nationalism of the french press on this defies belief. Cookson may be the right answer, or the wrong answer. But, mon dieu, mein Gott, this piece of turgid journalism has absolutely nothing to add to working out that question; it's pitiful.
Jesus from Cancun More than 1 year ago
I usually don't read comments this long, but yours was worth of an article of your own. Agree.
martinvickers More than 1 year ago
Thank you. If cyclingnews want to give me a gig, you know how to reach me!! ;-)
Homekat More than 1 year ago
Bravo Vickers. "Hit piece" indeed RepWalden.
argyllflyer More than 1 year ago
The opinion piece at the top has as much relevance to the overall debate as mine. The long comment directly above summarises what I feel about it perfectly.
DirtyWorks More than 1 year ago
Martin, I'm not sure where the faith in Cookson is coming from. The guy has been a long time UCI Management committee member. Just look at all the very direct questions he was asked and ignored about the UCI Management Committee's role in suing Kimmage. Now that he's running for office he's promised more attention to Women's Cycling yet months ago he dismissed developing Women's cycling because it wasn't making money.
WheresRepWalden More than 1 year ago
poorly written and full of innuendo instead of facts, it's easy to tell something is a hit piece when you know what to look for... i work in politics if you can't tell already haha
Lucifa More than 1 year ago
Pat better stay where he is then...............
ianfra More than 1 year ago
Sad in't it? Journalists think they have the god-given truth but many of them could have made strong stands against Armstrong but never did so. Nobody is perfect but Cookson has a great track record and they should give him a bit of space. Really poor piece as the poster above notes.
Lord.Bachus More than 1 year ago
For me he was part of the same old lot... Cycling clearly needs new people, but he is not new. the UCI needs a new governing body and structure... As i said before, democracy in the UCI needs to be equally split between Course organisers, cycling teams and cyclists..and not between VIPs from all the different countries in the world.
Gary_K More than 1 year ago
Brian Cookson can be trusted. He's not one of the 'old school' rogues and is certainly not in it 'for himself'. Look at British Cycling - much more transparency over issues such as drugs and their policies are clear cut. I know of no 'deals' struck or cut to anyone or any organisation by them to hide or evade the truth. If he's given the chance, it will be what the sport needs. The more comments he makes, the more he can be attacked or countered, so often is is best to say less.
DirtyWorks More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry he is quite 'old school' He's been on the UCI's Management Committee for years. What was his role in approving the Kimmage lawsuit? President of British Cycling (1996-...); UCI International Commissaire (1986-2009); Member of British Olympic Association National Olympic Committee (1997-...). Member of UCI Member of Management Committee (2009-…) ; President of the Cyclo-cross commission (2009-...)
SvelteSoutherner More than 1 year ago
This is a total hatchet piece not worthy of a blog read by 5 people, much less cyclingnews. How does this pass as journalism?
rata de sentina More than 1 year ago
It's an opinion piece - ie not journalism. Surely the "Opinion - " is a bit of a give away. Certainly it's not very good. Still just because Cookson is out to slay the bad ogre doesn't mean he shouldn't be scrutinised.
Blokeinfrance More than 1 year ago
This article was originally posted as news, NOT opinion. That's been added to the headline since - no doubt it will have been an error rather than a response to the tide of criticism. Shame on you Cyclingnews.
jaimiefuller More than 1 year ago
dreadfully written piece. can't even spell my name right (that's a joke BTW for any without a sense of humour). cookson publishes a manifesto. cookson does Q&A on twitter. cookson does interviews. other than a very good interview on irish radio with ger gilroy, i see very little public answers from pat to any hard questions. as to a public Q&A in any forum, forget it. something tells me also there was no manifesto either in 2005 or 2009 from pat that outlined his vision for cycling. the only reason he talks about one now (not done it BTW) is because cookson did one. will be interesting to see what pat's says when it eventually comes. let's face it, the guy is not a leader. cookson vows to rebuild relationship with wada/usada/afld etc. what's pat doing about this? oh yeah, he busted them. what opining do we get from this pathetic piece? petty comments about use of a certain team in a photo at the launch plus poor interpretation of his answers. sheer twaddle. i'd say it in more robust terms but last time i spoke my mind in this forum i was refused publishing.
DirtyWorks More than 1 year ago
Jamie, What does 'rebuild relationship with wada' mean?? WADA has no authority to open cases! Essentially, the sports federation has the authority to do nothing in the event of a positive and there's nothing WADA can do. Cookson may not be the guy you want him to be. He's a long time UCI insider. He's definitely a more skilled communicator!
Jack Ibbotson More than 1 year ago
Is cycling news sponsored/backed by Zdenek Bakala or the investors in the 'Closed League'?. This article is ridiculously biased, and also pointless, I just hope that cycling News is getting some money for this article from somewhere or someone, otherwise it is just an embarrassment.
Mark Hornsby More than 1 year ago
What I find most curious about this opinion piece is that it actually betrays just how deeply flawed Jean-François Quénet's thinking process is. On the one hand he makes snide allegations about Brian Cookson's lack of 'transparency' – based on little more than the fact that Cookson wont offer Quénet' his much-desired commitment to the outright rejection of the Bakala League – but in that same deeply flawed reasoning, Quénet's willingly overlooks the fact that if Cookson actually had given the answer that Quénet so desperately wanted to hear, then that would immediately have brought into question Cookson's undertakings about the style of leadership he is standing for. Only a person seeking to perpetuate the megalomaniacal style of the current incumbent (and his septuagenarian puppet-master) could possibly have given a definite answer. If you are standing for the type of open and collective leadership that Cookson is promising, then you would have to answer as Cookson answered, because such a decision quite simply isn't yours to take alone without fully consulting the sport's stakeholders and elected representatives. This is the sort of disconnected thinking that seems to flow so freely throughout this whole shoddy opinion piece.
DirtyWorks More than 1 year ago
Mark, The governance structure of the UCI is neither open nor collective. Sure, people vote for stuff, but countries run by despots have elections too. Please examine the possibility Cookson is a more skilled communicator, but more of the same UCI.
Mark Hornsby More than 1 year ago
I didn't say that the governance structure of the UCI is open and collective, so nothing to examine.
Mark Hornsby More than 1 year ago
... but the fact that it isn't currently open doesn't mean that it can't be.

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