WADA, USADA reject UCI approach to ‘independent’ inquiry

USADA's Tygart fears UCI has "has blindfolded and handcuffed" its so-called independent commission

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — After the Union Cycliste Internationale rejected the notion of a truth and reconciliation commission, two of the world’s foremost anti-doping bodies soundly rejected the UCI’s attempt to review cycling’s darkest days.

In the wake of the Lance Armstrong and U.S. Postal Service team scandal, professional cycling’s governing body convened what it’s calling an “independent commission” that would review the UCI’s actions — or the lack thereof — during the blood-doping and EPO era. It sought the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the latter of which assailed the Armstrong mystique throughout more than 1,000 pages of testimony.

Talks among WADA, USADA and the UCI appear to have broken down, marooning the UCI as it looks to investigate both itself and the sport over which it presides. At the center of the breakdown is the UCI’s reluctance to allow for a truth and reconciliation commission that would protect those looking to come clean and perhaps crack the omerta that’s long presided over professional cycling.

“[The] UCI’s refusal to agree to allow a limited opportunity for riders to come forward and be truthful without fear of retribution or retaliation from the UCI obviously calls into question the UCI’s commitment to a full and thorough investigation and creates grave concern that the UCI has blindfolded and handcuffed this independent commission to ensure a pre-determined outcome,” said USADA CEO Travis Tygart on Tuesday. “The current terms of reference are not good for clean athletes or moving this sport forward to a better future.”

According to USADA, the UCI rejected what it called “important components” in its review commission. The UCI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

USADA wasn’t the only one shunning its seat at the table. WADA also announced on Tuesday that it was walking away from the review commission after the UCI failed to address “serious concerns” over the amount of influence the UCI has over its own review and a lack of protection for those looking to address past doping.

The world anti-doping body also found the review to be too narrow in scope, seemingly focused on Armstrong in particular rather than on a complete review of a doping culture that’s long been ingrained and tolerated.

“There is further concern that the UCI has had too much influence over the terms of reference, which calls into question the commission’s independence. The terms of reference were signed off by the UCI and the commission without consultation with anti-doping authorities, while the requirement for the commission to deliver its report to the UCI before any other party is unacceptable,” a report from WADA reads.

“Finally, because the commission does not offer immunity there is no incentive for witnesses to come forward, or to even give witness statements. An approach that does not allow individuals to give evidence without the fear of retaliation will merely perpetuate the omerta that has been an obstacle to cycling investigations in the past.”

According to WADA, the UCI will not alter its course nor that of the commission’s.

“And for this reason, WADA has declined to spend money and dedicate resources on an inquiry that has such obvious limitations,” the release reads. “WADA will of course monitor the inquiry and if its concerns are fully met it will reconsider its decision to not take part.”