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Cookson: Truth commission coming in early 2014

UCI president says the long-awaited inquiry into doping in cycling will happen in early 2014

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JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — International cycling’s truth commission should be up and running early next year, UCI president Brian Cookson said Wednesday. Cookson and World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey reached agreement in Johannesburg on principles to guide the inquiry into doping in cycling.

“I’m hoping to make an announcement in a couple of weeks and I’m hoping that the whole thing will be up and running early in the new year,” said Cookson, the new president of cycling’s world governing body.

Cookson, who ousted former UCI head Pat McQuaid in an election in September, spoke on the sidelines of the World Conference on Doping in Sports, where he hoped to iron out final arrangements with the global anti-doping body WADA about the commission of inquiry.

“We are very anxious that we agree those terms and conditions with WADA. We’re pretty close to agreement now,” he said. “But I’m very anxious that we do all of this sooner rather than later.”

The UCI stripped American Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles — won between 1999 and 2005 — in October last year. Armstrong has said he would cooperate with an inquiry so long as he’s treated the same as his fellow drug cheats.

But Cookson echoed the words of outgoing WADA chief Fahey from Tuesday that any reconsideration of Armstrong’s sanctions should come from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

“He’s been sanctioned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the penalties he got from that have been accepted by the UCI and by the wider sporting world,” said Cookson. “And really it’s in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency whether they would look at any reduction in that for any further information that he might volunteer.”

Cookson was frank about the past “culture of doping in professional road cycling in particular” and his commitment to clean it up.

Athletes should be able to “go all of the way to the top of the sport without having to take risks, without having to cheat, without having to lie and without having to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders,” he said.

“I think it’s cleaner now than it’s been for many many years,” he added.

Fahey welcomed stronger relations with the UCI under Cookson after “some rocky moments in the past.”

The two leaders had “productive, constructive, progressive” discussions at the anti-doping conference, Fahey told media.

“I can assure you that WADA’s support will be given to the UCI,” he said, stressing that the planned commission would be the “UCI’s inquiry.”

Later Wednesday, Fahey and Cookson released a joint statement confirming that they had reached agreement on broad terms and that they would work together to launch the inquiry.

“They agreed the broad terms under which the UCI will conduct a Commission of Inquiry into the historical doping problems in cycling. They further agreed that their respective colleagues would co-operate to finalize the detailed terms and conditions of the Inquiry to ensure that the procedures and ultimate outcomes would be in line with the fundamental rules and principles of the World Anti-Doping Code,” the pair said in a statement released by the UCI. “Both presidents pledged that their organization would work harmoniously to help the sport of cycling move forward in the vanguard of clean sports.”