Damian Collins calls on UK Sport to rescind support of Cookson re-election

Brian Cookson at the Vuelta

Brian Cookson at the Vuelta (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

UCI president Brian Cookson has become the target of criticism of Damian Collins, the chair of the UK Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport select committee, following the publication of the final report of an independent review into British Cycling culture.

Collins called on current British Cycling chairman of the board Jonathan Browning to step down and said that UK Sport should not support Cookson in his bid for re-election as UCI president.

"In light of the findings of the independent review, I do not believe that Brian Cookson should be re-elected as head of the UCI – he certainly shouldn't receive any support from UK Sport for his campaign," Collins said.

"None of the members of the board from the period covered in the investigation should remain, which would mean that Jonathan Browning should stand aside from his position as chairman."

His colleague on the committee, MP Julian Knight, highlighted "major failings" at British Cycling, and said that UK Sport "was asleep on its watch".

Cookson, the president of British Cycling from 1996 until he defeated Pat McQuaid in 2013 to become the head of the UCI, presided over a period at the federation that, according to the review, perpetuated a "culture of fear" in the high-performance programme.

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Warning signs were present in a 2012 review commissioned by former British Cycling CEO Peter King, but no action was taken to address the issues until sprinter Jess Varnish accused coach Shane Sutton of sexism and discrimination following the 2016 UCI Track World Championships.

Since then, British Cycling has begun a massive reorganisation, making 'sweeping changes' to its athlete development and governance structures.

Collins blamed British Cycling's leadership for allowing the culture to deteriorate. "The crisis in British Cycling is a result of its poor governance structure," Collins said, according to The Guardian.

"The board sought to avoid conflict with senior team leaders and coaches, and there was no accountability for their actions. Even when concerns were brought to their attention they failed to act upon them."

UK Sport head Liz Nicholl acknowledged that if it had pursued the full King review, instead of the summary that it was given, that it might have picked up on the cultural issues and been able to address them.

But earlier this year, Cookson denied that British Cycling leadership under his tenure had been lacking.

The independent review, headed by Annemarie Phelps, was sparked by Varnish's allegations against Sutton. The commission interviewed more than 100 athletes and staff from British Cycling and came to the conclusion that there was a lack of good governance, a culture of fear, and that Sutton was allowed to operate with no oversight.

While the report generally upheld Varnish's assertions, she has threatened to take further action after being labelled as a 'troublemaker' and 'ringleader' in the final version.

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