Cookson’s Roadmap

Aigle, Switzerland

Brian Cookson could be forgiven for the distractions. As the vineyards around Aigle see the leaves turn and the autumn sun illuminates the Alpine peaks, the temptation to head outdoors and explore his new roads around the UCI’s Swiss HQ must be real.

But it seems the new UCI President’s been busy or at least giving the impression of activity. One basic rule of corporate communications is to say what you’re going to do, tell people when you’re doing it and once you’ve done it let everyone know you’ve finished the job. In this spirit this blog post will look at the UCI’s announcement yesterday and see what its doing and where it’s going.

Earlier this year Pat McQuaid said it couldn’t be done – “the rules don’t allow us to do that” – but Brian Cookson is set on an independent anti-doping agency. Yesterday’s UCI press release announced plans to create “a clear roadmap for setting up an independent UCI anti-doping operation in 2014”. But it’ll be interesting to see what this independence actually means. Three tests of independence:

  • will cycling’s anti-doping effort be reliant, in part or wholly, on funding from the UCI?
  • will it have a separate office away from the UCI’s HQ in Aigle
  • will their be any oversight of this agency from the UCI or the ability to nominate staff?

We’ll see what comes down the tracks but perhaps the independent agency will never be totally independent of the UCI.

Talking of independence, the Independent Commission is revived. This was a panel of experts hired in the wake of the USADA verdict to get the bottom of what the UCI did and knew during the Armstrong years. Only it was not independent at all, the UCI shut it down following an agency turf war and just as the commission started to ask some awkward questions. But it’s now back although what form it takes remains to be seen. Again three questions:

  • why was Armstrong allowed to ride in 1999 when the UCI’s rules stipulated an immediate suspension?
  • if the UCI knew of suspicious EPO tests why did it only give Armstrong the minimum number of tests possible?
  • Can we finally see the mysterious receipt for the Sysmex machine and Armstrong’s donations?

You might have seen the stories of private security agents on standby for Cookson’s election marching into the UCI right after he was voted in to take control of the UCI’s IT systems. We see this in politics and business where a new government or executive team comes in and makes sure to pin the mistakes of the past on the previous lot. But this time there’s a clear issue to address and it’ll be interesting to follow, the idea is help improve trust in the UCI, a point I’ll return to below. This work will also overlap with ongoing efforts for a sort of “truth and reconciliation” plan but as an informed reader noted on here yesterday:

I think the difficulty about an amnesty is that if you do it, what about other athletes that has been sanctioned in other sports?…. If a basketball player is sanctioned for doping and see that a doped bike rider has benefitted from an amnesty, I think the concept of harmonization and fairness is a bit lost.
Frédéric Donzé, WADA

The third component is an “International Development Commission to review the wide-ranging work of the UCI in this field including the role of Global Cycling Promotion and the World Cycling Centre”. It’s interesting to see the UCI’s race promotion business being viewed through the same lens as the WCC, it’s velodrome and training plan for riders from around the world and you could extrapolate that the UCI will turn GCP into GCD, global cycling development.

The fourth element was women’s cycling. Cookson moved quickly to appoint Tracey Gaudry as UCI Vice-President and she’s leading a review into improving this area of the sport with more details to come this week. The announcement is saying we’ll know who has been appointed and what the objectives are so this is more “here’s what we’re doing” rather than firm plans for change.

The drinks are on Brian

Finally the salary. Nobody knew how much Pat McQuaid earned but now it’s been revealed he was on 450,000 Swiss Francs a year ($500,000). Brian Cookson will have a salary of 350,000 Swiss Francs ($390,000). It’s unclear what other allowances he gets, McQuaid also had a house with stunning views of Lake Geneva and the Alps and presumably Cookson will also need a place to live too. For me the revealing point here was not the amount Cookson or McQuaid earns, it’s that Cookson chose to tell us what McQuaid was on, almost as if he’s still defining himself against the old bogeyman.

Now back to trust, having mentioned the salary on Twitter yesterday some were quick to ask whether McQuaid or Cookson could loot money in other ways. The replies were not a representative sample of all fans but they do suggest a problem with the UCI and that the President is seen as someone taking from the sport rather than giving to it. But that’s the UCI’s challenge. It’s said what it wants to do but now doing it will be the hard part.

Staff changes
In addition to the press release we’ve seen more changes, with lawyer Philippe Verbiest – never an employee – losing his role as advisor legal advisor. In comes Antonio Rigozzi, a Swiss lawyer who specialises in sports arbitration law – his name might be familiar as he helped Alberto Contador lose at the CAS. Another exit is Christophe Hubschmid, the directeur général and number two in the UCI organigram. Hubschmid was the mastermind behind McQuaid’s Moroccan nomination and other triumphs meaning his departure was inevitable. Cookson’s brought Martin Gibbs from Britain as a new “Chief of Staff”.

Saying what you’re going to do – whether reforming a governing body or telling your friends you will ride 200km tomorrow – is a commitment mechanism and yesterday’s press release put a timetable to events too. But a press release is one thing, the hard part has yet to come with so many details to sort out. So far, so good.

Main photo: Flickr’s Eric-P

Update – comments are temporarily turned off on this page. It’s for boring technical reasons.

42 thoughts on “Cookson’s Roadmap”

    • Sartorial splendor should not be important – after all, this fellow’s not ITALIAN. 🙂 I wish Mr. Cookson all the best as he wades into a stinky swamp of corruption, confident that pro cycling has pretty much nowhere to go but up at this point. We will now see who else is interested in cleaning things up versus maintaining the same old s__t.

    • As a humorous response, his first act as Pres was to contract for new UCI uniforms. I’m not sure why, I might have picked a decision with more symbolic importance.

      As a serious response, he has a new tailor and some new, proper fitting clothes.

        • The dying embers of the McQuaidvsCookson website implies otherwise:

          “On the topic of rewards, the first deal signed by the newly elected president was to award a clothing contract to Italian-based REMO, run by former pro rider Martin Havik. The obscurity of Havik’s company makes the decision curious.

          Cookson begins his presidency with a clothing deal deserving investigation . . . .”

          Odd way of putting it if the decision originated from McQuaid’s tenure.

  1. BTW, that press release is signed by John Zerafa of VERO Communications (who was also behind Cookson’s campaign).

    Any idea what their involvement with UCI is now, after the successful election?

    • Good question. McQuaid ending up using outside PR help too from Irishman Ian McClure – one voice behind all those angrily toned press releases – so perhaps the UCI is buying in some help too. It’ll be interesting to see how long they stay there.

      They’ve also got Louis Chenaille, former radio and L’Equipe journalist to replace the long-gone Enrico Carpani. Chenaille was appointed last summer but his name’s only been going out recently.

    • It’s not signed by Velo, just that they’re listed as a second point of contact after the UCI press office. Presumably Cookson’s retained their services for a little longer to work alongside the UCI press office – and perhaps teach them a thing or two about effective communications.

    • In the questioning of how much his campaign was costing him and how he could possibly afford it, I think he stated that VERO had given him a considerable discount. Depending on ones political leanings, one can infer or not, but they did a professional job, Cookson was successful, and they’re loyal, so it only stands to reason that they’d be included in his future.

  2. Its good to keep an eye on developments at the UCI under the new broom.
    Probably a little early to see any truly significant changes, but from all that’s been said and early indications, the direction of travel looks promising. As an earlier poster, Larry T said, it would be almost impossible to make the situation worse than PMQ managed.
    My hunch is that we are about to see significant changes in management style, openness, direction and outcomes.
    This guy actually enjoys riding his bike, plenty of time for contemplation !

  3. If nothing else , Brian will be able to put his Lunch break to even better use , since the Velo track is downstairs .
    Those that read my wish list , will have seen plenty of progress on most of the points . People must realise that WORK is being done and THEY would be the first to complain when ALL the ” i s ” & ” t s ” were not properly dealt with !

    Can anyone imagine what we would have seen from phat at this time , other than 2 fingers ?

    Note how quick phat was to report , that he held onto ” his laptop ” until returning it to Aigle , who can guess , whether it was in sight and unused throughout that period ?

    Having Cycled around that area with TDS , Dauphinee , Romandie and nearby with Giro & TDF , i could easily live there , BUT FOR the cost of Living . The photo above reminds me of areas of Austria , Italy , France , as well as Aigle , but living on a budget determines my domocile .

    Still awaiting News of the 100th Le Tour SANCTIONS ? Of course i am being unreasonable to believe that the 100th Le Tour , broke the mould , with ALL Racers being out of character and swearing NOT TO CHEAT the Public , Sponsors and REGULATORS !


  4. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that Martin Gibbs was McQuaid’s chief of staff for a couple of years, before he left to join British Cycling.

  5. The day I met Tom Simpson
    By Brian Cookson, British Cycling President
    It was 17 June 1967. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was still five days short of my sixteenth birthday, and in the middle of my O levels. Of course school was only a sideline, a bit of insurance. I was going to New Brighton with some mates from my club at the time, the Preston Wheelers, to see the man whose career I was going to emulate. It was the day I was to see my cycling hero.
    I caught the bus up to the top of Cop Lane and waited for the mini to arrive carrying my clubmates. Was it a mini? It must have been, they all had them. They were all older than me, all working for a living, but committed racers in their own way, some better than others, 1st cats, 2nd cats, 3rd cats, whatever. All lads about town as well. They were my heroes too, in a different way.
    Was it George Bradbury’s car, or was it Andy Deakin’s? Maybe I don’t remember it quite as well as I thought. Either way I do remember it was a sunny day. But then every day was a sunny day when I was that age, wasn’t it?
    We drove down the A59, through Rufford, Burscough, Ormskirk and Maghull to Liverpool. I’d never been there before, despite living only 40 miles or so away. We didn’t travel so much in those days of course. My kids think I’m joking when I say I’d never been to Manchester either, until I went for a college interview at 17. Why would I have gone to Manchester or Liverpool? There were plenty of shops in Preston, then there was the seaside at Blackpool, St Annes, or Morecambe. For a really exotic outing we would go to Grange over Sands, or a coach trip to Windermere. No point going to Manchester, certainly not Liverpool. How the world has changed in such a short space of time.
    So Liverpool was a bit of a culture shock to me. I knew it was where the Beatles came from, indeed that had been another of my possible career paths – I had the guitar, the haircut, the music master even called me the school Beatle for a while. But I’d dropped that, I figured the life of a pro bike rider was my destiny.
    On we went past Aintree racecourse, then mile after mile of terraced streets, past a gloomy prison, a big hospital, caught a glimpse of the Everton ground at one point, then suddenly we were in the Mersey Tunnel, descending in the semi-darkness, flat at the bottom, then climbing up the other side. Someone said they let you ride a bike through early on a Sunday morning, and the climb was the hardest on Merseyside.
    Suddenly we were out in the bright sunshine and into the clamouring world of the Birkenhead Docks, passing ship after ship, loading or unloading their mysterious cargo, with home ports and flags from around the world. No containers in those days, just real docks and real dockers. Cranes and boats and trains, and those dockers all hustling and bustling, busy, busy, busy. Or maybe that’s just the way it seemed to me.
    Suddenly we were out of the docks and arriving in what seemed like a smaller version of Blackpool. New Brighton, our destination. I could see the sea, or rather the Mersey Estuary (I knew that from Geography), and I could see a huge outdoor swimming pool. In fact some of the lads went for a swim. I didn’t join them because I knew I was going to be a serious professional roadman and swimming during the season was not good for cycling muscles. It didn’t matter that my most significant performance to date was not getting dropped in a schoolboy criterium on Morecambe promenade. I was a serious bike rider.
    Finally, we strolled up to where the races were, a few hundred yards away. A few hundred metres, I thought, preparing myself for my life as a European pro. The lower category races were going on, but my hero wasn’t due to arrive until a bit later. So we waited. I relaxed my rules and had an ice cream (don’t eat it too quick or you’ll put a chill on your stomach).
    The British professionals (or were they still calling them independents that year? I forget) were getting ready, and a fearsome lot they looked, a hard bunch of men. Blokes like Arthur Metcalfe, Colin Lewis, Roger Claridge. No matter, I’d soon leapfrog over them and join a top continental team, I thought.
    A sizeable crowd developed. The biggest I’d ever seen at a bike race. Where was the man we had all come to see? Is it my memory playing tricks again, or was there a hot rod car there, in the colours of the event’s sponsors Players No6 cigarettes? Bizarre.
    An announcement came over the crackly tannoy. His flight had been delayed, but he was on his way. The British pros didn’t seem too pleased. Their race was about to start and they didn’t want to hang around. So they raced.
    Another announcement came over the tannoy. An extra race would be held, when he arrived. So nobody would be disappointed. Was I imagining it, or did the British guys ease up a bit in their race? Were they talking along the back straight? They still didn’t seem too pleased. Surely they should have been honoured that they were going to be thrashed by one of the greats.
    Then suddenly there he was. Tom Simpson. My hero. The greatest British bike rider ever. You could pick up Cycling (as it was then) any week during the season and expect that he would have won a classic, or at least given his all in a break, before suddenly blowing and finishing in a state of exhaustion. He’d won the World Championship then the Tour of Lombardy, in 1965, less than two years before, the autumn that I first went on a club run. He’d worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He’d won Paris – Nice earlier that year beating some young teammate called Merckx or something unpronounceable, who everybody said was going to be pretty good. Tom was one of the favourites for the Tour, leading a British national team, a temporary blip before the Tour finally became taken over by commercialism.
    Blimey, it really was him. Here, now. He looked exactly like the photos in the magazines. Tanned limbs, beaky nose, ready smile, classic black and white Peugeot kit and matching bike with Mafac brakes and Simplex gears (remember them?). A big crowd gathered around him and a couple of other continental-based guys who’d come over with him.
    Meanwhile the race with the British pros had finished and it was clear some discussion was taking place. There seemed to be some reluctance, but eventually a smaller bunch took the start and a short race began. Simpson won, of course. At least in my memory he won. But then I wasn’t really watching anybody else anyway. I think we all knew it was a bit of a show really, but we appreciated the effort the guy had gone to, to please his home fans on a rare British appearance.
    The race was over and we wandered back towards the car, happy enough to have seen him. Suddenly there he was again, stood by his car chatting to fans, signing autographs. I waited my turn, and was too shy to ask him a question, but I’d got something special for him to sign, something that nobody else seemed to have – a copy of his autobiography “Cycling is my Life”. And sign it he did, with a cheery smile. I still have it. He probably said something to me, but I can’t remember what. I was already in a trance.
    Off we went, back to the car, back through the docks, back to Preston, dropped off at the top of Cop Lane, and walking back home, still inhabiting the dream world of the Continental pro. Maybe I’d even be his teammate one day, I thought. I’d got the cotton Peugeot-BP cap from an advert in Cycling, I reckoned the rest of the kit would look fine on me too, once I’d filled out a bit. Days later, I got a stern rebuke from a team mate “Never mind that, you never offered any petrol money!” I was mortified – the biggest sin of all is to be tight with your mates.
    But I had done what I’d wanted. I’d met my hero, the guy I was basing my life on. I had his autograph to prove it. I was happy and went about my training with renewed seriousness. The O levels? Well, I passed enough to get into the sixth form, even French because I knew I’d need it when I joined Tom over there.
    Now my memory is moving on a bit. Its less than a month later. I’m a junior now and I’m in the changing rooms on a Thursday evening for the Eccleston Handicaps that take place every week. Andy Deakin (was it him, or is my memory playing tricks again?) comes into the changing rooms. He’s got a serious look on his face. “Hey lads” he says “Simmy’s died”.
    We are stunned. What can you say or do? It was on the BBC radio in Andy’s mini, so it must be true. We don’t cry, we’re northerners, we are just stunned. Stunned, baffled and bemused. What’s happened, was it a crash on a descent, yeah that happened to that French bloke Riviere or something a few years back, didn’t kill him but finished his career, didn’t it? Maybe that was it?
    No. It seems the reports are saying exhaustion or heart failure or something. Wow, we think, we always knew Tom could push himself, we’d seen the photos and read the reports in Sporting Cyclist, but to push yourself that far was something else. Maybe there was more to it. Didn’t make sense. We raced anyway, but our hearts weren’t in it.
    It didn’t take long for the stories to start to emerge. Cycling on the front page of my Dad’s Daily Express for once. Doping was there in big letters, it seemed amphetamines had been found in his kit. Amphetamines? Wasn’t that what some mods took in clubs in Manchester or London? Film was shown on the News of Tom cheerfully showing the contents of his personal medical box – “muscle fortifiers” and all, whatever they were. It seemed pretty clear – it wasn’t the only factor, the extreme heat, dehydration, general exhaustion all seemed to have combined. But there was doping. I was shattered.
    I still clung to my belief that I would make it as a pro for a few more years, but now I look back I realise that my heart wasn’t really in it any more. I still loved the sport and gave it all the commitment I could, whilst going through A levels and college and getting a proper qualification to see me through the real world. Of course by that time, reality had set in. I won a few races, even a Division Championship, but I wasn’t ever going to be anywhere near good enough to be a pro. I knew that.
    But it did teach me something and it did give me one very, very clear moral position. Doping is a scourge, and sometimes people need to be protected from their own and others’ failings, their greed and their folly, if sport is to be worthy of our ambition, worthy of our commitment, worthy of our devotion.
    Tom Simpson should still be with us today, an elder statesman, an icon for the young riders we are bringing so successfully into our sport. Instead he has been dead for forty years. He let us down. I understand the thought processes he went through, the moral conundrums he faced. But still, he made the wrong choice and he paid the ultimate price. Easy for me to say, I know.
    The mystery is that so few people seemed to learn the lesson. Forty years later we are still going through the process of weeding out those who think it is acceptable to take those sort of risks, or worse to risk the health of young riders, men and women, in their care, just to win bike races and make money. At last, however, we seem to be making progress. That makes me happy. I know there are problems in many other sports, too. But I don’t really care about other sports. I care about our sport, our young people, our beautiful races.
    That’s why I will always do everything I can and why I will continue to speak out on this sadly persistent issue. When I read of the latest “hero” to be questioned by the authorities, and hear of their protestations of innocence, their pathetic claims of laboratory mistakes, devious conspiracies against them and so on and so on, I smile, sadly. Forgive my scepticism. Truth will out. What goes around comes around. I know that, you know that, they know that. How do they sleep at night?
    When I think of their cynicism, I think of Tom Simpson. And I think of a broken dream. The broken dream of thousands and thousands of us over the years.
    Rest in peace, Tom.

  6. The salary and perks go with the job. I work at an average UK university and the Vice-Chancellor gets £250k pa plus large pension contributions/free house/chauffeur and (I presume) business class travel. I presume McQuaid has to leave the house now he is unemployed? If he changes the UCI for good then he’s worth it. The fact that a dialogue with Armstrong may be opened must be a sign for the good

  7. He’s certainly aiming high, I would probably of been happy with just 1 or 2 of those points in the press release, will be more interesting to see how it will all be funded especially the independent anti-doping agency, pass the fee’s on to the teams? can’t see them liking that especially when the new agency will inevitably want to increase tests. Or should want to, cycling might be doing a lot more than any other sport but it still seems like a net with really big holes in.

    have they approached inrng to proof read press releases? would of been my first order of business.

    • Andrew wants inrng to “proof read” (sic) press releases? Please. His/her own dispatches are peppered with grammatical mistakes, typos and sometimes factual errors (which are often corrected by his/her own faithful readers).

  8. Brian Cookson also posted fairly regularly on the veloriders forum, so if anyone is so inclined they could look through them for an insight into the man. If I remember rightly even then, as head of BC, his answers were calm and measured.

  9. “I think the difficulty about an amnesty is that if you do it, what about other athletes that has been sanctioned in other sports?…. If a basketball player is sanctioned for doping and see that a doped bike rider has benefitted from an amnesty, I think the concept of harmonization and fairness is a bit lost.”
    – Frédéric Donzé, WADA

    IMHO that logic is flawed because every sport is completelly different in so many regards (structure, funding, organization, public base, marketing, etc.), but above all in regards to the stage of dope fighting. Each one needs its own dose of medicine to fight specific doping problems, only that may bring harmonization and fairness.

    If cycling decides at some point that amnesty is viable and the best to bring doping down, so be it. If basketball or any other sport reach that point one day, all the best.

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