Inquiry can help to restore image - UCI chief

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Cycling has a difficult process of soul-searching to get through if it is to restore its reputation after years of doping scandals, new International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson said on Thursday.

"Let's get all of the allegations out, find out more of the history, let's find out who was involved, what were the procedures, how did people manage to avoid tests for so long and yet be still using such serious substances and procedures," Cookson told Reuters in an interview.

"I think there is a lot of work still to be done there. (I) think we've got to go through that process to restore our image and the reputation of our sport."

The UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had this week agreed the terms of an inquiry into doping in cycling, Cookson said, and details would be announced in the next few weeks.

Cookson, who won a contentious election for the UCI presidency in September, told Britain's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday that he wanted disgraced American Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, to contribute to the inquiry.

"I don't think it is proper to use the phrase ‘truth and reconciliation' but what we are trying to do is similar to that," Cookson told Reuters in Johannesburg on the fringes of the World Conference on Doping in Sport.

"There (are) a fair amount of details to be agreed. The important thing is that it will be genuinely independent and take evidence from whoever wants to come and talk to it and we'll be agreeing the final details of what can be offered by way of incentive to testify and what the powers of the commission will be.

"We are really trying to look forward. We'll give it an appropriate name that will help focus people's understanding on reform, reconstruction and revalidation of our sport."

Cookson said he planned to make the UCI'S drug testing more independent.

WADA, who are hosting the Johannesburg conference, would advise on the structures of the inquiry commission and make sure it complied with their code, he said.

Cookson said he felt cycling was making progress after the huge loss of credibility to its showpiece events and Armstrong's confession that he had used illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

"A lot of progress has been made but there are many steps ahead yet," Cookson said.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)