Cookson on Athletics: “we have learned a few lessons in our sport and we can share those lessons”

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Speaking about the corruption and doping allegations currently hitting the world athletics body IAAF, UCI president Brian Cookson said that it is important for all sports to take such issues seriously and to grasp the nettle as cycling has done.

Cookson spoke on the issue in a sit-down interview with CyclingTips last week. He was commenting on the news then that former IAAF president Lamine Diack had been placed under investigation following allegations that Russian athletes were protected after failing drugs tests.

Diack is suspected of accepting approximately one million euro in bribes, and has subsequently been arrested.

On Monday former WADA president Dick Pound published an extensive and devastating independent investigation into the claims of corruption and doping.

The report concluded that there was “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics.”

The 325 page review also uncovered what it termed “a deeply-rooted culture of cheating.” It recommended that Russia be suspended from competition, and also be blocked from competing in next year’s Olympic Games unless it carries out widespread reforms.

While Cookson said that he didn’t want to be seen to be taking pleasure in what athletics was going through, he accepted that the same sort of lessons cycling learned in the past two decades must be taken on board by others.

“Schadenfreude isn’t a very healthy emotion,” he said when asked about the controversy surrounding Diack and athletics in general. “It is not my role to comment on other sports and so on. But I’ve said for some time that unless other sports start to deal with issues that we have had to deal with over the last few years, then sooner or later they will have the same kind of problems that we had. And that seems to be proving to be the case.”

Cycling was thrust under the microscope in 1998 when the Festina Affair broke, and was hit by further controversy in subsequent years through issues raised by the likes of Operacion Puerto, the Landis and Rasmussen affairs and the Lance Armstrong/US Postal investigation.

However allegations that other sports and their stars were involved in Operacion Puerto were not investigated seriously, leading to one sport taking a hit while others avoided major questions.

Cycling continued to incur major criticism from the mainstream media in the years since. Football and athletics had nothing like the same scrutiny, yet both have been hammered in recent months as evidence of widespread corruption at the highest level has emerged.

Cookson said that he was willing to assist where possible.

“We are happy to cooperate and collaborate with other sports, with WADA, with other international agencies like the IOC and so on to help others if we can,” he stated.

“That doesn’t mean that we claim to be perfect, far from it. But I think we have learned a few lessons in our sport and we can share those lessons, I am sure.”

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