Cookson: UCI has faced challenges 'bravely and robustly'

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has approved changes to its constitution on the second day of meeting during the World Road Championships in Qatar, with President Brian Cookson promising to further internationalise the sport if he is elected again in 2017.

Cookson confirmed he would stand for a second and final term during his speech to the Congress. He is widely expected to face competition from his current vice-President and President of the Union Cycling Union (UEC) David Lappartient of France next year when the vote is held during the World Road Championships in Bergen, Norway.

The amended UCI constitution now provides for a broader representation of the Continental Confederations on the powerful UCI Management Committee. In order to promote equality of representation around the world, the number of voting delegates has been raised from 7 to 9 for the African Confederation.

The composition of the UCI Ethics Commission has been reinforced and is now made up of five members, of which three, including the Commission President, are independent from the world of cycling. The UCI Congress also voted in favour of granting the Commonwealth of Dominica, Niger and Tajikistan official membership of the UCI, taking total membership to 187 national federations.

From a troubled and tarnished past, into a world-class International Federation

In his speech, Cookson claimed that he has transformed the UCI "from its troubled and tarnished past, into a world-class International Federation." There was no information on the problems with the reforms of the men's WorldTour. In the last few days the UCI has made changes to several track events, awarded the 2019 Road World Championships to Yorkshire and confirmed the return of trials of disc brakes in the professional peloton in 2017. 

Cookson said the UCI had faced its problems head on and reiterated that the UCI had worked hard to fight mechanical doping in the sport, claiming it is "now practically impossible for people to use technological fraud to cheat."

"No other federation has been as courageous and transparent as the UCI in confronting its past," Cookson said.

"The CIRC process and the report was key in the restoration of trust and co-operation with WADA and the National Anti-Doping Organisations. It also helped to re-build trust with the media, our fans and with parents who need to know that their children will be protected and will not have to cheat, lie or risk their health to compete at the elite level. And even though past challenges continue to surface from time to time, I am committed to dealing with them honestly, transparently and absolutely in line with the rules. Let me emphasise this," Cookson said.

"We have also met other challenges bravely and robustly – such as technological fraud. Over the past two years, we have put in place clear rules where before there were none. We have tested in depth across our disciplines, and developed a new and very effective scanning procedure that allows us to check literally hundreds of bikes in a single race day. So it is now practically impossible for people to use technological fraud to cheat. And if we do catch anyone trying to cheat in this way, we now have very severe sanctions to apply,"

"In a year when other federations have been in the news for the wrong reasons, and we have seen damaging stories concerning the participation of some athletes in the Olympic Games, we can take comfort from the decrease in negative media attention on us. Of course, it hasn't always been like this – and this change hasn’t come about by chance. It has happened because the UCI and the cycling family has been brave. We have come together, and taken crucial steps to build trust in our sport."

Talking up the development of women's cycling

Cookson also talked up the UCI's work to further develop women's racing. The Women's WorldTour was created for 2016 with further races, including some kind of women's Tour de France expected to join the calendar in 2017.

"A world-class federation that values equality will take its responsibilities for developing women's sport seriously," Cookson said.

"That is why I am proud of the achievements we have made in women's cycling, including the launch of the UCI Women's WorldTour this year, which saw 17 great races across Europe, China and the United States. 9 of these races were broadcast live, and five more produced highlights packages that were broadcast on national TV.

"We have also taken firm action to equalize prize money between men and women in all UCI World Championship events across all disciplines. Of course, the journey is far from over, but we now have a really strong base to continue to move women’s cycling forward in 2017 and beyond.”

Cookson admitted that the UCI is not perfect but called on the many different national federations to support him as he stand for re-election. He insisted he is not standing for personal ambition but to make the UCI the best Federation in the world.

"We have achieved a huge amount, together, in the last three years… to build a world-class federation that serves every one of you in this room; to do everything in our power to ensure that our sport flourishes. As you know, this time next year I shall be asking for your support to stand for a second and final term as UCI President."

"I'm standing not because of personal ambition. I'm standing because there is more to be done at the UCI – and because it is the right thing to do for our Federation. It is a work in progress. I want to continue the process of turning the UCI from an effective Federation into … quite simply … the best Federation anywhere in the world. If, next year, you give me the honour of serving you for a final term, that will be my goal."

He concluded his speech with a famous quote.

"As former US President John F Kennedy said: 'Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.' I want the UCI to give that pleasure to as many people as possible – right around the world – and inspire a new generation to fall in love with cycling," Cookson said.

"It means also spreading our major events across the world – as we are doing, right here, right now – whilst also ensuring cycling stays strong in its traditional heartlands. But we must also aspire to do more than this. I want to see cycling make a difference to the world we live in – to people's health, to their mental well-being, and to the planet's sustainability. Cycling, more than any other sport, can do this. We can touch literally hundreds of millions of lives in a really profound way – and I want the UCI to help drive and realise this momentous opportunity that stands before us. It is this vision for cycling that would underpin my final term as your President." 

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