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Bombshell or dud? Whitewash or a real point of departure for cycling?
Those questions, and many more, will be answered in the coming days in the highly anticipated release of the UCI-commissioned review of the EPO era scheduled for Monday.
UCI officials confirmed the so-called CIRC report from the Cycling Independent Review Commission will be revealed Monday following more than a one-year review of the “EPO era.”
The big question over the weekend will be whether or not the potentially explosive report will be packed with explicit details of names and places, which could have major fallout within the sport for some active riders or team staffers, or whether it instead will use broad strokes to provide a platform for change.
Some are expecting something similar to the Reasoned Decision that was released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012 that proved so devastating to Lance Armstrong, who received a lifetime ban, and the U.S. Postal Service doping machine.
Others, however, expect something broader, more akin to what baseball delivered with the Mitchell Report following a 20-month investigation into steroid use in 2007.
The UCI has been tight-lipped about what the three-member commission has come up with. Since its inception in early 2014, the UCI has insisted the panel would work independently of the sport’s governing body, and that there would be no hint of undue influence between the commission and the UCI staff.
The only real hint came when UCI President Brian Cookson spoke with reporters at the track world cycling championships in France last month, saying, “When you open a can of worms, you find a lot of worms.”
The CIRC report was a central tenet to Cookson’s campaign promises in 2013, when he unseated two-term president Pat McQuaid in a bid for the top seat of the cycling governing body. The UCI promptly ponied up more than $3 million to fund the effort, and Dick Marty, a Swiss politician and former prosecutor, was tapped to lead the effort. Peter Nicholson, an Australian military expert, and Ulrich Haas, a CAS arbitrator, were selected to assist in the review of the “EPO era,” with a mandate on studying what went wrong, why, and what can be introduced to prevent the same thing from happening again.
The time frame was set from 1998 forward, a date that some grumbled didn’t go back far enough. No matter what, there was plenty of material to consider from the Festina Affaire of 1998 through the U.S. Postal Service years until the latest doping scandals, ending in 2013.
Active and former riders and staff were encouraged to cooperate, with the veiled promise of reduced bans if they did, and the veiled threat that there could be implications if they did not. The commission, however, had no subpoena power, nor can it directly dish out bans.
It’s hard to know who actually stepped forward, but several big names were reported to have cooperated, including Armstrong, who stated he gave two extensive interviews. Chris Froome (Sky) also reportedly spoke with investigators.
While much of the report will be looking in the rearview mirror, there could be major consequences for riders and team sport directors and staff who might have committed doping offenses in the past. Cookson has hinted that the UCI might implement a standard for the future that would have included cooperation with the commission.
There could be some broadsides at former UCI presidents McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, who have been accused in some quarters of complicity in the doping scandals that ravaged cycling from the 1990s into the 2000s, though it is unknown how much the commission delved into the former administrations.
Cookson has also promised the full report will be revealed in its entirety, set for Monday.
“We’ve committed to publishing the report that they give us. We’re not going to get into a FIFA-type situation of arguing about the report,” Cookson told reporters at the track worlds. “Unless there are legal reasons why names can’t be named, they will be.”
What’s sure is that whatever CIRC comes up with, it won’t be enough for some, and perhaps too much for others. Some have questioned why an inquiry was even necessary, especially considering that many of the darkest secrets of the EPO era have been revealed via other police investigations, confessions, and tell-all books.
Cookson, however, wanted a clean slate at the start of his new presidency. And the best way to do that was to underwrite an investigation. Whether that answers all the questions remains to be seen. It won’t be long. Monday is less than 72 hours away. It could be a very long weekend for some in and around the peloton.