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by Shane Stokes
December 22, 2015
Photography by Shane Stokes
When UCI President Brian Cookson sat down to an interview last month about his first two years as UCI president, he was open to discussion about most topics.
There was one question, though, which resulted in a very short answer.
Asked about the honorary president title that he had previously said that the UCI wanted to void, Cookson clearly wasn’t comfortable about the topic.
“I haven’t really got anything more to say about Hein Verbruggen,’ he said. “CIRC made comments, Hein has made a rebuttal on his website….
“Hein did a lot of good for the sport of cycling. I haven’t agreed with everything. I have made comments and I am not really going to add anything more to that.”
And that was that.
Until Monday. The full reason for his reticence became clear when the Inside The Games website reported that Verbruggen had emerged best in a struggle over the matter.
The Dutchman told the website that Cookson signed an agreement to bring to an end legal proceedings Verbruggen took after the publication of the CIRC report. That report investigated the role of the UCI and others in light of the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service scandal.
Under the terms of that agreement, he said that the conditions including an undertaking by Cookson to renounce “definitively from asking me to resign from my Honorary-Presidency and agrees not to mention this question anymore publicly or privately.”
He also said that the UCI would pay a financial contribution to him – reported by Inside The Games as around €40,000 (£29,000/$43,000), and include a link on its website expressing Verbruggen’s answer to the CIRC report.
The latter has indeed been displayed on the UCI website for some time.
Contacted by CyclingTips, Cookson said in a statement on Monday evening that no money had been paid and that he now considered that agreement null.
“Those close to cycling know very well where the UCI went wrong in the past, including the conflicts it needlessly got into and which seriously damaged its credibility,” he stated.
“I was elected to change the way the UCI conducts itself and therefore, following a request from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), I indeed met with Mr Hein Verbruggen last summer.
“We came to a confidential agreement which was to ensure, amongst other things, that he would stop using his influence to criticise and cause trouble for the UCI. Since Mr Verbruggen never respected his commitments, the agreement is considered null.
“No money has ever been paid to Mr Verbruggen since I became President.”
The UCI stated that Cookson did not intend to comment further about the subject at this point in time.