Cooke calls for women’s cycling to take a different, more ethical path

'We should ensure that we bring ethics to events,' says 2008 Olympic gold medallist

Nicole Cooke has suggested that women's cycling should carve a different path built firmly on ethics and honesty as it develops and grows, rather then try to simply imitate the male version of professional cycling.

In a special blog written for the BBC during Women's Sport Week, Cooke touches on the subject of morality and honesty following recent scandals in other professional sports such as soccer and athletics.

She asks if "women's sport wants to go where greed, corruption and a lack of respect are commonplace?” She also suggests that women have "unique selling points and at this crucial juncture we should ensure that we bring ethics to events, and sponsors who will support the application of those principles."

Cooke won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and then worked to help compatriot Lizzie Armitstead secure Britain's first medal of the 2012 London Olympics. She had an outstanding career despite retiring at the age of 29 but earned little for her efforts even if it was more than many of her rivals.

"It was incredible to see the huge crowds lining the roads in London and Surrey in the pouring rain, willing us on. It vindicated what I had said many times - women's road cycling was a spectacle people wanted to see," she writes of the 2012 London Olympics.

"The public are actually far more fair-minded than they are painted by many a sports journalist or marketing executive. They value their daughters' achievements as highly as those of their sons. Lizzie used the platform of winning the silver medal to talk about sexism in cycling, which she described as overwhelming, and urged the powers that be in the sport to close the gap that still exists between men's and women's cycling in terms of media exposure and money. It was a story I was all too familiar with, so it is great to see the coverage women's cycling is getting now and witness that divide starting to narrow. But as this change occurs, it would be well worth taking stock and considering where we really want sport to take us."

At a tipping point

Cooke questions the moral standards in sport after the Lance Armstrong years and the current investigations into soccer governing body FIFA. She also asked if money corrupts sport and overrides fairness. Importantly, she asks if women can carve a different path.

"We're at a tipping point and as women's sport evolves it would do well to look at what is best practice across other disciplines and not blindly seek to go where the male version of the sport has ended up," Cooke writes.

"Away from cycling, where has wealth taken British football? Watch a referee make a decision and see the stars crowd round and intimidate him. Does women's sport want to go where greed, corruption and a lack of respect are commonplace? I believe some of the most difficult battles for women's sports will be fought in the boardrooms of the governing bodies.

"We have unique selling points and at this crucial juncture we should ensure that we bring ethics to events, and sponsors who will support the application of those principles. Then we can showcase just how great women's sport can be."

To read Nicole Cooke's full column on the BBC website, click here.

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