Cookson to challenge McQuaid for UCI top role

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Brian Cookson will challenge Pat McQuaid (AAP Images)

British Cycling chief Brian Cookson has announced he will challenge controversial incumbent Pat McQuaid for the presidency of the International Cycling Union (UCI).

We must restore cycling's credibility. The first priority for the new UCI president must be to change the way that anti-doping is managed so that people can have confidence in the sport

Irishman McQuaid has been in charge of the sport's global governing body since 2006 but has come under pressure for the way in which the UCI reacted to the fall-out from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Cookson, 61, said he was standing against McQuaid in a bid to restore "cycling's credibility", having overseen a transformation in the sport's British fortunes from near bankruptcy to the multiple medal-winning success at last year's London Olympics led by Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy.

Elections will take place at the UCI's annual congress in Florence, Italy, in September.

"I am not doing this lightly as I know how much needs to be done," Cookson said in a statement.

"When I became the President of British Cycling in 1996, the Federation was deeply troubled and close to bankruptcy. Since that time cycling in my country has been transformed beyond recognition.

"Many wonderful people have helped this process, motivated by a passion to do the best for cycling, and I have been proud to lead them.

"Many good things have happened in our sport around the world in recent years, and I am proud that British cyclists and British events such as London 2012 have played their part in showing what a superb sport we have in cycling, in all its diversity.

"But the passion I and many others have for cycling cannot hide the fact that our international body, the UCI, remains hugely distracted, continuing to flounder in waves of damaging historical controversies.

"For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts with important members of the cycling family and other key stakeholders.

"We must restore cycling's credibility. The first priority for the new UCI president must be to change the way that anti-doping is managed so that people can have confidence in the sport. We must also urgently carry out a fully independent investigation into the allegations of corruption in this area which have so damaged the UCI's reputation."

The UCI has come under pressure since the publication of a damning US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report in October last year, accusing Armstrong of orchestrating the biggest doping network in sporting history.

The US rider was later stripped of his record seven Tour de France wins, amid allegations that the UCI was complicit in covering up previous positive tests.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also criticised the UCI when an independent panel the governing body established to examine its own alleged involvement was disbanded before it could report.

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