FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Newly elected UCI leader Brian Cookson appointed the heads of three continental cycling confederations as his vice presidents Saturday, and clarified his relationship with Russian backer Igor Makarov.
With the support of the UCI's management committee, Cookson selected David Lappartient of France, Mohamed Wagih Azzam of Egypt and Tracey Gaudry of Australia as his VPs. They head the European, African and Oceania confederations, respectively.
"We have for the first time a woman in an important role in the UCI," Cookson said. "I have a lot of confidence in all of those three people and I'm sure that we can really move forward now to take the UCI in a new direction."
Cookson defeated incumbent Pat McQuaid 24-18 in a fiercely contested vote Friday that is being hailed as key to moving the sport forward from its doping-infested past. McQuaid's three VPs were Cho Hee Wook of South Korea, Renato Di Rocco of Italy and Artur Lopes of Portugal.
Cookson's campaign was strongly supported by Makarov, the wealthy Russian cycling federation president, and he was asked to clarify his relationship with the oligarch. "My relationship with Igor Makarov is the same as it is with every other member of the management committee and federation president," Cookson said. "He's an important figure in world cycling, there's no doubt about that. But I have made no commitment to Mr. Makarov, no funding from Mr. Makarov and there is nothing in any way out of order in our relationship."
After taking on the UCI role, the 62-year-old Cookson stepped down as president of British Cycling, which he led since 1997 and turned into one of the sport's most powerful national federations — including Britain providing the last two winners of the Tour de France in Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Cookson's next order of business will be to call new IOC president Thomas Bach. McQuaid will lose his IOC membership, and he warned during his final campaign speech that, if he were to lose the vote, it would hurt cycling within the Olympic movement.
"The truth is that the reputation of cycling doesn't depend on one man," Cookson said. Another of Cookson's first moves will be to establish an independent anti-doping commission. "There's no doubt that there's a lot of work to do and some tough decisions to be made," he said. "But with the benefit of a strong vote yesterday, a clear message from world cycling that they want a change in leadership, I think I've got the support and authority from all my friends and colleagues around the world to make a new start."
Di Rocco withdrew his candidacy for vice president after learning that Cookson wanted to name a woman for the job. "It's like a race," Di Rocco told The Associated Press. "As soon as it's over, everyone's friends again."
Cookson also wants to set up a so-called "truth and reconciliation" commission to encourage riders, team officials and others with knowledge of cycling's doping past to come forward. Di Rocco, though, who has seen his country's star riders like Ivan Basso, Riccardo Ricco, Michele Scarponi, Danilo Di Luca each serve bans for doping, cast doubt on the idea.
"I hope we stop investigating because it's all old stuff," Di Rocco said. "The important thing is we know there was (doping). We don't know exactly how it worked but we know there was a problem. We all paid for it, with bans and what not — especially in Italy."
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