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Cookson invites Armstrong to contribute to Truth and Reconciliation process

By:
Stephen Farrand
Published:
September 27, 2013, 20:21 BST,
Updated:
September 28, 2013, 16:55 BST
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, September 28, 2013
Race:
UCI Road World Championships
Outgoing UCI President Pat McQuaid shakes hands with incoming UCI President Brian Cookson

Outgoing UCI President Pat McQuaid shakes hands with incoming UCI President Brian Cookson

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New UCI president admits he was emotional after winning the vote

New UCI president Brian Cookson said Lance Armstrong would be one of the first people invited to take part in any form of Truth and Reconciliation process as he tries to rebuild cycling's credibility after years of conflict and scandals.

Armstrong has been the artifice of many of those scandals but during his first press conference as UCI president, Cookson appeared ready to treat Armstrong like any other former rider who doped during his career. Immediately after Cookson was declared the winner of the election, Armstrong took to Twitter, writing simply: "Hallelujah". It was his first tweet for almost two weeks.

"I'm always pleased to hear that anyone is happy I've been elected, be it Lance Armstrong or any other cycling fan around the world," Cookson said with a hit of dry British humour.

"We need to put a structure in place as quickly as possible. Lance Armstrong will be one of the first people invited to contribute to the process once we've established it. And I'll be seeking to do that as quickly as possible."

Cookson insisted he is not naive about cycling's murky past.

"Let's not beat about the bush. We know there's been problems in cycling and other in other sports," he said. "My record shows I don't shirk from responsibility and won't do [so] in the future. I'm confident cycling can heal the wounds it has inflicted on itself. I'm looking forward to that task."

He also urged McQuaid to speak about his involvement in the past.

"I'd urge Pat and anyone else to co-operate in any investigation and I'm sure he will want to do that. I want to thank Pat on his contribution to the sport. We may have fallen out in recent weeks but he's contributed a lot."

Cookson insisted that the support he has had from Russian oligarch and president of the Russian Cycling Federation Igor Makarov will not sway his stance on any matter, including any investigation into the Russian Katusha team.

"I'll prove my honesty by having a transparent approach at everything at the UCI. I'll publish my personal financial details," he said.

"I've nothing to nothing to hide. Makarov is an important person in Russian cycling and was elected today to the UCI Management Committee. I look forward to working with him. An investigation into any team is why we have to have a total independent body."

An emotional day

Cookson hugged his wife and family immediately after being elected as the new president of the UCI and then when the Congress had closed and McQuaid had left the building, he gathered the members of the new UCI Management Committee and his closest supporters to thank then personally and pose for a historic photograph.

Cookson admitted he was still emotional after is victory.

"I'm emotional because I'm passionate about the sport," said Cookson.

"I think of the first moment I pushed open the door of a cycling club room and completely fell in love with the sport. I still ride the bike and I imagine riding the great cols even if I'm riding in the hills at home. That's why we do it: for the passion, the love and emotion. That's something I'll never lose.

"If we're involved in the sport, we don't like to see the damage that has been inflicted on it and I want to do something to heal that. I'm honoured to be selected to lead that fight."

Key moment in the vote

The often ridiculous UCI Congress seemed set to drag on for hours due to constitutional arguments about McQuaid's right to be nominated until Cookson stood up and said he was ready to accept McQuaid as a rival and go head-to-head in the vote for president.

It was a slightly risky stance for Cookson to take, but it seemed to impress some delegates and galvanized his campaign. He went on to win 24-18.

"I wasn't confident but felt I had to put an end to the misery, even if I'd won or lost," he said.

"People respected that. It's the way I work and operate. We were going around in circles so I decided to put the matter to the vote.

"I think today was pretty disastrous for cycling and the UCI, it was mishandled in so many ways. We will do a constitutional review. We will think it through, restructure and have a revised constitution in time to be adopted at next year's Congress."

Cookson said his ethics are irreproachable and flatly denied allegations that a Greek delegate had been offered 25,000 Euro in exchange for voting for him.

"That's absolutely preposterous. I've never heard any thing so not true. It's not my way to do business; it never has and never will be," he said.

After some intense lobbying and meeting with different delegates, Cookson said he was looking forward to enjoying a rest and finally seeing some racing.

One of his first acts as new UCI president will be to award the rainbow jerseys to the winners of the road races.

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