By Nick Butler

Brian Cookson insists the UCI are working hard to rectify outstanding problems ©AFP/Getty ImagesInternational Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson has admitted to insidethegames that progress in the first 10 months of his tenure has not been perfect amid a vow to work hard to rectify concerns over coming months.

The Briton, who defeated Pat McQuaid in a hotly contested Presidential election in Florence last September, has been subject to a barrage of criticism in recent weeks concerning a variety of different issues.

Last month, the fact that high profile Russian rider Denis Menchov, a former winner of the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana titles, had failed a doping test and would be stripped of his 2009, 2010 and 2012 Tour de France results only emerged via the media.

Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome was then controversially granted a therapeutical use exemption (TUE) for a steroid-based drug so that he could ride in the Tour de Romandie while carrying a chest infection.

Despite regulations stating that "the UCI shall appoint a committee of at least three physicians to consider requests for TUEs", only the UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli was involved, after the Commission had delegated responsibility solely to him.

It has also emerged that, soon after Cookson's election, members of the governing body's Ethics Commission were replaced, despite Article 15 of the UCI Code of Ethics stating that the Commission members "shall be irremovable" unless there is a death or a resignation.

But Cookson has insisted all of this criticism was "acceptable" as long as it continues to be done in an "honest and constructive" manner.

Brian Cookson has come under fire over various issues since replacing Pat McQuaid as UCI President 10 months ago ©AFP/Getty ImagesBrian Cookson has come under fire over various issues since replacing Pat McQuaid as UCI President 10 months ago ©AFP/Getty Images

"If I had not been ready to accept criticism, I would not have declared myself as a candidate for UCI President with a vast programme of reforms to change the culture and improve the image of our Federation," Cookson told insidethegames.

"We have certainly not become perfect in the last 10 months."

"But more than ever we want to make things better."

"It is important to remember that we treated all the cases mentioned in this article in full compliance with our rules and those of the World Anti-Doping Agency."

Following the problems that dogged the tenures of his Presidential predecessors McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, particularly relating to their alleged involvement in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, Cookson had pledged to herald in a new era in the sport.

This was especially so with regard to doping, where a strict "zero-tolerance" approach would be adopted.

But this did not appear to apply when Australian cyclist Michael Rogers was not given a doping ban despite testing positive for clenbuterol, after the UCI upheld the former Team Sky rider's claim that he had ingested the banned substance via contaminated meat.

The case of Menchov, where news of a ban following irregularities in the Russian's biological passport reading were posted but not advertised on the UCI website, appears a further blemish.

Some have said the fact Menchov's Katusha team was founded by Igor Makarov, one of Cookson's biggest backers during the Presidential campaign, may have affected this decision.

The Briton has strongly denied this is the case, although he has also admitted it would have been better to make a more positive announcement regarding Menchov.

In relation to the exemption awarded to Froome, he has also said that future decisions regarding TUEs are "not taken by one single individual but by a panel of experts".

The UCI has been criticised for failing to publicise the suspension handed to Denis Menchov ©Getty ImagesThe UCI has been criticised for failing to publicise the suspension handed to Denis Menchov ©Getty Images

In April, Cookson also illustrated some naivety in his understanding of the sports world when he was slammed by International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer for publicly suggesting various sports, including judo but not cycling, should be switched from the Summer to the Winter Olympics.

But perhaps the most serious criticism relates to the changes within the Ethics Commission, where Dutchman Peter Zevenbergen insisted he was deliberately removed as the Commission investigated claims that Igor Makarov had promised €1 million (£793,350/$1.4 million) to the European Cycling Union in exchange for a Cookson vote.

It is also thought that fellow member Peter Barth subsequently left his job in April due to a feeling that the independence of the Commission could no longer be guaranteed.

Once again, Cookson denies these claims and insists changes were made only to improve the quality of the Commission.

"I think those who were in the Congress meeting last year would have been disappointed with the performance of the Ethics Committee as it was represented," he said.

"I think that it was quite clear that we had to change.

"We have got a new Ethics Commission now, all the members of the Commission have been renewed.

"The people we have are of the highest quality."

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