Exclusive - Brian Cookson dismisses slurs: 'I am not ashamed of my reign at British Cycling'

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Brian Cookson, International Cycling Union president, spoke in Hong Kong about his disappointment at not being contacted by the team behind the independent review - Rex Features
Brian Cookson, International Cycling Union president, spoke in Hong Kong about his disappointment at not being contacted by the team behind the independent review - Rex Features

Brian Cookson, the president of cycling’s world governing body the UCI, has denied that the leadership structure at British Cycling during his tenure was “dysfunctional” or that he did anything during his 17 years in charge about which he was “ashamed or concerned”.

He added that some of those who had complained about the organisation in the past 12 months “seem to have forgotten their own flaws and faults”.

Speaking in detail for the first time since a draft report of the independent review of British Cycling was leaked last month, describing a “culture of fear” and a general lack of good governance, Cookson said he was confident the final report would be “more balanced” and that his hopes of re-election as UCI president this year would not be damaged by the long-running saga.

The Telegraph revealed in February that the 65-year-old had, surprisingly, not been called to give evidence by the five-person independent panel, despite having presided over the organisation from 1997 until 2013.

Cookson rang the panel on Christmas Eve, when it was clear that a draft report had already been circulated, to express his disappointment.

<span>Cookson was in charge at British Cycling between 1997 and 2013</span>
Cookson was in charge at British Cycling between 1997 and 2013

Speaking at the UCI Track World Championships in Hong Kong, Cookson admitted he was “not happy” that he had been ignored. But he said that he had seen a draft on March 1 and had “made comments on that draft”.

“Let’s see what the final version [of the report] says,” he added.

Cookson has been criticised in recent months for ‘hiding’ from the controversy and for his failure to comment on the issues flagged up by UK Anti-Doping and the independent investigations.

The Briton said again that it would be inappropriate to talk about the UKAD investigation, particularly given his “conflict of interest” as the former president of British Cycling and as someone who sat on the operating board at Team Sky until his election as UCI president in 2013. But he did reveal that he had not been interviewed by UKAD. “I will give evidence to UKAD or anyone who asks at the right time, if there is anything I can tell them,” he said.

Of the independent review he added: “As you say it’s now on public record that I was not consulted and I’m not happy about that. I can confirm that that’s true, that I have now been consulted.

“I believe that the draft is only a partial investigation and that’s reflected by the content of the draft. I hope that what I have said, along with various others who have now commented, will result in a more balanced final report.”

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One of the allegations contained in the draft report had already been made public by UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl. Namely, the accusation that British Cycling ‘covered up’ an internal review in 2012. Cookson declined to comment on that. “I think there are too many people commenting on a piece of work that is ongoing,” he said. “I think some of the things that I’ve read, that people have leaked and so on, have been unfair and unbalanced.”

Asked whether he felt the controversy might affect his chances of re-election – a rival has not yet officially declared an intention to stand against him on Sept 21 – Cookson said he did not think so.

“The voters around the world will base their assessment of my competence during my four years as president of the UCI,” he said.

“I’m happy to stand on that record. I’m happy to stand by my record as president of British Cycling as well. I have not done anything at British Cycling that I am ashamed of or that I’m concerned about.

“I would reject the description of ‘dysfunctional’ [leadership]. I think that it was, and still is, an organisation that evolves and changes, as all organisations need to do. I think any more than that I shouldn’t really say until we see the final result of the report.”

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