Cooke: I have no faith in UK Anti-doping

In scathing written evidence and subsequent testimony delivered to British Parliament
Tuesday, Olympic and world champion Nicole Cooke accused British Cycling leaders of
systemic sexism, conflicts of interest, a lack of accountability, misuse of public funds, ignoring
evidence of doping, and extensive misgovernance.
The testimony, delivered as part of an inquiry by parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport
Committee that has also seen depositions from Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford and others,
describes a British cycling system “run by men, for men,” and an anti-doping system within
which “the wrong people [are] fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong
tools.”
The period described by Cooke was one in which the current president of the UCI, Brian
Cookson, was president of British Cycling, and Cooke questioned whether UK Sport should
back Cookson financially, as it did when he last ran for the UCI presidency. Cookson was not
immediately available to comment on the accusations leveled at the governing body he was
formerly in charge of.
British Cycling released a statement hours after Cooke’s written evidence was released but did
not reference Cooke specifically. “While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely
committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport,” the statement said.
Cooke’s accusations stem from her career as a professional cyclist, 2002-2012, during which
she won the women’s Tour de France twice, the Giro d’Italia once, was Olympic road race
champion, world road race champion, and two-time winner of the Women’s Road World Cup,
among myriad other victories.
Cooke’s three primary accusations are:
British Cycling failed to provide equal support for its men’s and women’s teams.
“Very little was ever done to support female road riders during my career,” Cooke said.
Cooke’s evidence spans her career. It includes a lack of support as a junior rider, when she won
her first elite national title, and a story from the Beijing Olympics, where British Cycling failed
to provide her with a skinsuit and Emma Pooely had to sew a Sky logo onto an old one. Cooke
also cites a failure to provide a women’s team support in the lead-up to the London 2012
Olympics, a time in which extensive resources were applied to the men’s program.
“Whilst this deluxe program ran out for the men’s London 2012 bid, Emma Pooley and myself
self-funded our flights to and accommodation in Australia,” Cooke said.
Cooke also pointed to the lack of a Team Sky women’s program, noting the close, often
intertwined relationship between the Sky and British cycling.
“Dave Brailsford managed the project with BC CEO Ian Drake and President Brian Cookson on
the Board of Tour Racing Limited the holding company set up to ‘own’ it. Once again the
designed in ‘oversight’ were the people who approved the initial decision to progress the
project as male only. No successful appeal that it should be a male and female team was
possible. This was run exclusively by men, exclusively for men,” she said.
British Cycling operates with extensive public funding but without meaningful oversight, which
has allowed the aforementioned inequality to continue.
“The management at [British Cycling] are able to show discrimination and favouritism for
projects and individuals without check or balance; they are answerable only to themselves,”
Cooke said in a written statement.
British Cycling is largely funded by lottery profits, making it the richest national cycling
federation in the world by a large margin. Those funds are handed out by UK Sport, the body
that oversees national federations for all Olympic sports.
Cooke contends that UK Sport provided no oversight into how the funds it directed to British
Cycling were spent, leaving the leadership at British Cycling without accountability for the ways
in which they directed the funds. This led to British Cycling failing to adequately fund women’s
cycling even as it spent massive sums on the men’s program, specifically the World Class
Performance Program.
Cooke filed a complaint to this effect with UK Sport, but was told that the body could not get
involved in a dispute between a national federation and one of its athletes. Cooke eventually
contacted her local Member of Parliament (MP), who brought the issue to the Minister of
Sport, Richard Caborn.
“I was able to eventually get UK Sport to accept ultimate responsibility for the disbursement of
funds and services procured with public funds, UK Sport do not offer effective oversight and do
not hold [British Cycling] to account, in fact the reverse is true with the model mainly being
that BC and affiliated projects spend and distribute as they and they alone see fit, and also
spend over budget with little fear of censure,” Cooke said.
Cooke ties the issues of accountability and inequality to the ongoing Wiggins “jiffy bag”
scandal. As the facts stand today, it is believed that Simon Cope, then the head of the women’s
program, was sent to France to deliver a bag containing Fluimucil, a decongestant. Cooke
questioned why the head of the women’s program was used a courier for a men’s professional
team. She also used the incident to illustrate how public funds were used to aid an ostensibly
private professional program, Team Sky.
“I believe both of these problems have a direct bearing on why an employee, whose salary is
paid out of the public purse, is directed by his managers, also paid out of the public purse, to
spend several days driving from the south of England to Manchester and back and then catch a
plane to fly to France and back, all to urgently deliver a package, the contents of which he
claims he is ignorant of,” she said.

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