I’m sure there will be 101 articles about this, in the mainstream as well as the cycling press, but Nicole Cooke gave evidence to the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Combatting Doping in Sport. Cooke is one of the cycling superstars, who defined an era of women’s racing, becoming the first ever rider to become the Olympic and World Champion in the same year, and winning pretty much everything of importance.
If you’ve even vaguely followed Cooke, you won’t find much new here – she’s been talking about doping for years, and has always raised issues with and about British Cycling. But I really recommend listening to her, because she handled herself excellently, and there’s so much to think about.
If you’re not familiar with what a Parliamentary Inquiry is, or the Committees that investigate them, there’s lots of information on this page – but basically, it’s where members of Parliament take an in-depth look at an issue, and make recommendations to Parliament. They take submissions in writing, and then call witnesses, and they can question them about basically anything.
Some of the MPs/Lords may have a special interest in the exact issue, or may know about an issue in general, but not this aspect, and others can be new to a topic. They research it, and they read the written statements, and like in this case, it often can lead to questions around things we take for granted, but are totally new to the members. I loved that here. There’s so much that I realise I am resigned to, these days – prize money, sexism built into the sport, equal pay, etc. It’s all things I want to change, but it’s things I’ve become used to, so it’s always refreshing for me to see people come at things for the first time, especially like this, when they’ve been researching a subject, so they’re genuinely surprised/shocked. I can completely see how an MP with a general interest in sport, who’s used to athletics, swimming, tennis, etc, could be completely taken aback by cycling.
Of course the focus was on doping, but the Committee was also asking questions about women’s cycling, sexism, British Cycling etc – so things like (I paraphrase), if Simon Cope was the BC women’s team coach, why was he couriering for Team Sky, etc – and given that British Cycling is funded by public money, it felt very apt.
Anyway, if you missed it, there are various ways you can catch up:
- Find out more about the inquiry, including the previous interviews and eviddence
- Read Nicole Cooke’s written submission to the Committee, which they’d read beforehand
- Watch/listen to the replay of Cooke’s evidence (by skype) to the Committee
- UPDATE! Here’s the transcript of Cooke’s evidence – basically everything that was said, in writing
- Guardian journalist Sean Ingles was livetweeting parts of it on his twitter – and you can read his article about it on the Guardian website.
If you’ve come to it from quotes, or tweets, one thing to bear in mind is that Cooke was always very careful to put things in context, and to be very clear where she didn’t know something for sure. On twitter the 140 character limit naturally condenses things down, and takes a lot of nuance out, and I’m sure the same thing will happen in quotes, because there were a lot of things that were very strongly worded. But I really appreciated Cooke’s thoughtfulness, and her making sure her parameters were clear. She was always very careful to say where things were her opinion, not fact etc. And I did laugh out loud at some of the leading questions, which she side-stepped very nicely – anyone who knows anything about Nicole Cooke knows she’s not easily lead!
If you’re new to women’s cycling, or to Nicole Cooke, here are some great places to start learning more:
- Cooke’s autobiography, The Breakaway (and review of it by Feargal McKay on Podium Café)
- Cooke’s website and twitter
- Links to Cooke’s retirement statement, which included a lot about doping and British Cycling
- There are tons of interviews with her, from different points in her career, if you google Nicole Cooke interview, but I think the most recent one is from Casquette
- Two little clips of her biggest wins – winning the 2008 Road Race in Beijing, and then the World Championships.
Naturally, a lot of the questions were around British Cycling, and if you’re interested in their history with women riders, I collected a set of mainstream articles from the last 10 years of issues women riders have had with BC.
UPDATE – there’s more added to the Committee’s page – including the written and video version of the evidence from the former British Cycling women’s team manager, Simon Cope, which of course talks about his delivery of that package to Bradley Wiggins, but also about his role at British Cycling, including a cross-over with Cooke’s evidence.
I’ll edit in articles about her evidence as I see them, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find them everywhere! As always, if you have any you’d like to share, please do let me know, in the comments, or on twitter.