Brian Cookson, the head of British Cycling, has defeated incumbent president Pat McQuaid by 24 votes to 18 at the UCI Congress in Florence to be elected as the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI). However, this was not before heated discussions over the legitimacy of McQuaid’s candidacy as both the Irish and Swiss cycling federations refused to endorse his candidacy.
The regimen of McQuaid has been bogged down by many controversies. Early in his first term, Pat McQuaid had a fight with Tour de France owner ASO over the ProTour project. In 2006, the Operación Puerto doping scandal in Spain damaged the reputation of cycling and the former UCI head was criticized for failing to control doping in cycling with big names such as Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, and others either accused or admitting to use of banned drugs.
Cookson issued a call for unity in the sport after the result was announced. He will now step down as president of British Cycling. Within 24 hours of his victory, Brian Cookson appointed three new vice presidents David Lappartient from France (president of the European Cycling Union), Mohamed Azzam, from Egypt (president of the African confederation), and Tracey Gaudry (president of the Oceania confederation). Cookson remarked we are going to take the world governing body of cycling to a new direction and said he wouldn't have all of the answers to everything within a few days but we certainly can start this journey in the right place.
The newly-elected UCI president said he believes the vote of confidence in his favor comes with a mandate for change in the direction and tone of the UCI. Cookson vows to create an independent anti-doping body for cycling and said he would reach out to important constituents, such as the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Cookson also remarked that he is open for exploring a possible amnesty program but distanced himself from suggestions to create a breakaway racing league. He added that Tracey's appointment as Vice President is a happy change and the UCI will also establish a women’s commission to look in much more detail how to promote women’s cycling. Cookson promised to enter into a new era that would be emphasized by cooperation, transparency, and rebuilding the image of cycling that has been tarnished by high profile doping scandals.
British Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson congratulated Brian Cookson on becoming the President of the UCI. He remarked cycling in Britain has never been in a better place as it is right now, on both participation and elite fronts, and Brian deserves a lot of credit for that. Bob Howden, former vice chairman of British Cycling, remarked he have had the pleasure and the privilege of working alongside Brian for 14 years, and have seen first-hand how his collegiate and honest approach to leadership has helped transform not only British Cycling, but also the sport of cycling in this country. Howden added he has no doubt that Brian is exactly the kind of leader that our sport needs at the highest level, and that he will be able to make a significant contribution to the sport at a global level as UCI President.