Wednesday 21 February 2018

Lance Armstrong reacts to Brian Cookson's win over Pat McQuaid in one word: "Hallelujah"

Brian Cookson, of Britain, poses for photographers just after being elected president of the UCI in Florence today
Brian Cookson, of Britain, poses for photographers just after being elected president of the UCI in Florence today

Martyn Ziegler

Lance Armstrong hailed the victory with one word: "Hallelujah", and although international cycling's new president Brian Cookson may not welcome a seal of approval from the world's most infamous drugs cheat, it did echo the feeling of many people in sport.

Cookson, the head of British Cycling, beat the incumbent and controversial president Pat McQuaid, from Ireland, by 24 votes to 18 at the UCI Congress in Florence.

It came after a morning of heated discussions and baffling regulations at the Congress, condemned as "disastrous" by Cookson afterwards, who has promised a full review of the sport's constitution as well as to tackle head-on its ongoing problems with doping.

The election campaign has been a vitrolic one, with allegations of dirty tricks by both sides culminating in a claim that the Greek federation was offered 25,000 euros to vote for Cookson, who immediately denied any knowledge.

He told a news conference: "That's absolutely preposterous. That's not the way I operate. Never have, never will."

Cookson said his first main task is to rebuild relationships with the anti-doping authorities - a task that will be made significantly easier by McQuaid's departure from office.

Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, welcomed Cookson's win, saying that the UCI under McQuaid had done everything to thwart his investigation into Armstrong that finally led to the former US Postal rider's lifetime ban.

Tygart said: "The outcome of the UCI election sends a powerful message that sport leaders who fail to fully protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of their sport will be held accountable.

"The UCI tried to obstruct our investigation into doping in cycling at every turn, and then after the release of our reasoned decision the previous leadership failed to take necessary and decisive action to fully clean up the sport.

"The election of a new UCI president who is committed to transparency and a new direction, is a monumental moment for the sport and demonstrates that when clean athletes stand up for their rights they will be heard.

"We are confident that as president, Mr Cookson will take the decisive action needed."

Cookson has said he will pick up the phone to the World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday to start the re-building process, and he is also on good terms with Sir Craig Reedie, the IOC vice-president who is the WADA president-elect.

After the result was announced, Cookson issued a call for unity in cycling, and on doping stated: "I think my record shows at British Cycling that I won't shirk from my responsibilities.

"I'm very confident that I can help cycling heal the wounds that it has inflicted upon itself. I'm really looking forward to that task.

"My first priorities as president will be to make anti-doping procedures in cycling fully independent, sit together with key stakeholders in the sport and work with WADA to ensure a swift investigation into cycling's doping culture."

He also pledged to tackle the administrative shambles of the Congress in Florence.

"I think we can all agree that it was pretty disastrous for the reputation of cycling and the UCI and it was mishandled in so many ways," said Cookson.

"I know if I say I'm going to have a constitutional review that sounds a bit boring but essentially that's what we'll do.

"It is by doing these things that we will build a firm platform to restore the reputation of our international federation with sponsors, broadcasters, funding partners, host cities and the International Olympic Committee. Ultimately this is how we grow our sport worldwide and get more riders and fans drawn into cycling."

Cookson also issued thanks to McQuaid but alluded to the bitterness of the campaign.

He added: "While there have been some difficult moments between myself and my opponent Pat McQuaid during this election contest, I would like to thank Pat for the contribution he has made to cycling during his long career."

Cookson has immediately stepped down as president of British Cycling, which will announce nominations for a successor on Monday. Vice-chairman Bob Howden has been appointed chairman until the election of a new president in November.

Press Association

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