Cookson: Change the Leader to Change the Reputation

May 15, 2015

By Christian Radnedge

International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Brian Cookson believes that the reputation of a scandal-hit organisation is best recovered with a regime change – something FIFA members may be thinking about in the build up to the presidential election later this month.

Speaking at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference in London this week, therapy Cookson reflected on his 30-months in charge of the UCI which was blighted by corruption and widespread doping allegations when he succeeded his controversial predecessor Pat McQuaid.

In the changes since he took over, including an exhaustive report into the era of doping in the sport, Cookson rated cycling as “two or three out of ten” in the race to sporting integrity.

He admitted though that even a leadership change may not always produce results.

“I think it’s very difficult to change the reputation of an organisation if you don’t change the leadership of that organisation” Cookson said. “However, even if you do change the leadership, and the governance or the administration, that’s not a given that that’s going to improve the reputation either.

“So I think you’ve got to walk the walk as well as talk-the-talk and you have to earn that kind of respect and support and that’s a difficult process because people will constantly challenge you, they will constantly look for behavioural patterns in you that they saw in previous leadership as it were.

“So you’ve got to try to be true to yourself and true to your commitments but equally living in the real world at the time – that means having to grin and bear things sometimes.”

Soon after being elected in September 2013, Cookson made sure that the board of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation was renewed and was therefore made completely independent of the UCI.

Earlier this year the Cycling Independent Reform Commission’s report into the doping era epitomised by Lance Armstrong gave a damning indictment of practices happening under McQuaid’s watch and previous president Hein Verbruggen.

Cookson said that there was still a long way to go to achieve sporting integrity in cycling.

“One of the things I’ve found is that the world doesn’t change because you can flick a switch and say ‘I’m here now and we’re all going to things differently aren’t we?’” he said.

“So trying to make those different processes stick, trying to be consistent, trying to be accountable and auditable is all part of that process and so if you want an answer I would say I think we’ve got to two to three out of 10 on the way and we’ll keep working and trying to get to 10.

“It’s not ever an easy process to change those deep-seated cultural and behavioural patterns.”

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