Independent commission halted until January 30 as it awaits UCI files

Having not received the necessary documents from the UCI, the independent commission temporarily suspends its work until January 30

LONDON (AFP) — The independent review commission set up by the UCI following the Lance Armstrong scandal was suspended Friday after it emerged that the commission had yet to receive any documents from the sport’s governing body.

“We have yet to receive any documents from the UCI,” Guy Morpuss, a lawyer for the independent commission, told a procedural hearing in London.

Later, commission chairman Philip Otton, a former judge in England’s Court of Appeal, said he was, “with considerable reluctance,” suspending the procedural hearing until January 30.

“A truth and reconciliation hearing is the best way we can examine the process,” UCI president Pat McQuaid told reporters after the hearing. “Our procedures are the most innovative and stringent in sport, we were the first (sports) federation to introduce a biological passport in 2008 and we want to eradicate doping in cycling.”

McQuaid, who said he had resigned Thursday from the International Olympic Committee body evaluating candidate cities for the 2020 Olympic Games because “my sport needs me,” added, “We want a truth and reconciliation commission with WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency).”

“We cannot do it without them,” said McQuaid, who became UCI president in 2005. “The foundation board of WADA have to change the WADA code to give an amnesty. Their next meeting is in May — they can change that regulation straight away.”

Asked how long the truth and reconciliation process might take, the Irishman replied, “It’s very difficult to know the timescale… But I don’t want a cloud hanging over the sport for the next year or two years.”

Earlier, after the UCI revealed it had 16 files of documents, Tanni Grey-Thompson, the British Paralympic champion who is one of the three members of the commission, asked, “When we will get the files?”

Ian Mill, a lawyer for the UCI, said the governing body “had no desire to suppress or conceal the documents.”

But he said that the UCI had been taken aback by the commission’s call last week for rider amnesty and a truth and reconciliation process — a call which he thought went beyond their original remit of looking into the UCI’s conduct during the Armstrong era.

He added that the UCI could not offer an amnesty to cyclists who admitted doping offences as this would breach existing WADA rules.

WADA responded with a statement claiming that the UCI had not approached its board regarding amnesty and that it was open to such a process.

“Had the UCI approached WADA to discuss such an amnesty then it would have been advised that such a process would be possible to implement with the approval of WADA’s Foundation Board,” it said. “The President of the UCI was present in his capacity as a then member of the WADA Foundation Board at its meeting in November 2012 and did not raise the issue.”

Last week WADA, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) — the organization whose investigations into Armstrong led to him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping offenses — and advocacy group Change Cycling Now all said they were withdrawing from the hearing because of the lack of an offer of amnesty.

“This commission still strongly believes an amnesty is important for the good of professional cycling generally,” Otton said Friday, as he announced that the hearing had been suspended after the commission had deliberated for 45 minutes. “But the UCI has been unable to establish an all-embracing agreement… In the circumstances, the commission has decided with considerable reluctance to adjourn the procedural hearing until Thursday, January 30.”

“The commission recognizes the immense public interest in how Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal team were able to engage in systematic doping without detection or sanction,” Otton added.

Armstrong indicated last week that he would participate in a truth and reconciliation process during a television interview with host Oprah Winfrey.

McQuaid said of the interview, “We heard Lance Armstrong say he will be one of the first in the door. It’s important he discloses a lot more than he disclosed on TV.”

Later on Friday, USA Cycling lent its support to the UCI in developing an amnesty program.

“USA Cycling fully supports the decision announced today by the UCI that it intends to work with WADA to create a truth and reconciliation commission. This is an important step in bringing much-needed transparency and reconciliation to an era of cycling that has been tainted by abhorrent examples of doping,” USAC said in a statement. “It is only through a process such as this, with full disclosure and transparency, that professional cycling can be assured the mistakes of the past will never again be repeated. Of equal importance is the need for the UCI to work with a respected, fully independent anti-doping authority such as WADA in the creation and administration of such a panel.”