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UCI disbands independent review commission to pursue truth and reconciliation

Governing body pledges to pursue truth and reconciliation after weekend discussions with WADA

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The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced on Monday that it had disbanded the independent commission it had entrusted to review the governing body’s treatment of the Lance Armstrong doping affair. In a press release, UCI president Pat McQuaid said that he would move forward with an amnesty program aimed at opening dialogue on cycling’s doping problem.

“The UCI today announced that it is disbanding the Independent Commission — established to investigate the allegations made against the UCI in the USADA Reasoned Decision on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service (USPS) team – since WADA, USADA have refused to cooperate with the inquiry,” the UCI said in a release. “The independent commission itself has said that any report it produced without these bodies being involved in the process would be dismissed as not being complete or credible.”

UCI president Pat McQuaid, who stepped down from a key role in the venue selection panel for the 2020 Summer Olympics last week, said that he had spoken with WADA chief John Fahey over the weekend about the formation of a truth and reconciliation process, a sticking point in the public back-and-forth between the cycling body and anti-doping agencies. Following those discussions, McQuaid said, the UCI Management Committee, which meets Friday at the elite cyclocross world championships in Louisville, Kentucky, decided to disband the commission and avoid “six-figure legal fees and other running costs” as the panel was scheduled to meet Thursday in London.

“As I said last Friday, we have listened carefully to the views of WADA, USADA, and cycling stakeholders and have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air so that cycling can move forward,” said McQuaid. “Over the weekend I spoke to John Fahey, president of WADA. He confirmed WADA’s willingness to help the UCI establish a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), as well as saying that WADA had no confidence in the existing independent commission process.”

After speaking out against the UCI’s reluctance to engage in an amnesty process — due, it said, to World Anti-Doping Code preventing such a process — the commission met last week in London to discuss truth and reconciliation. Fahey issued a scorching press release giving the UCI and its review process a vote of no confidence a day later.

The panel suspended the proceedings due to a lack of documentation delivered by the UCI. Chair Sir Philip Otton said he hoped the adjournment would allow all those involved to reach agreement on an amnesty, whereby witnesses could give evidence free of the fear of subsequent disciplinary action by the UCI.

However, UCI lawyer Ian Mill told the hearing the governing body could not offer an amnesty to cyclists who admitted doping offences as this would breach existing WADA rules.

Immediately after Friday’s hearing, McQuaid insisted the UCI wanted to work with WADA, saying it could not conduct a TRC hearing alone.

But this is set to be a new process given that Thursday’s commission hearing won’t now take place.

On Monday, McQuaid thanked the three panel members and said that he expected a truth and reconciliation process to begin before the end of the year.

“We do this with regret, but given the stance of WADA we did not see any other option. I would like to thank Sir Philip Otton, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and Malcolm Holmes QC for their work which I am sorry they will not be able to complete,” he said. “We will now focus our efforts on establishing a TRC, with which we expect WADA to be fully engaged, to look at doping in professional cycling, as well as the allegations contained in the USADA Reasoned Decision. The work that has so far been undertaken by the independent commission will be shared with the TRC.”

USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in an email that the UCI had handcuffed its review panel and was acting in its own self-interest.

“As we previously said, the UCI blindfolded and handcuffed its independent commission and now hopes the world will look the other way while the UCI attempts to insert itself into the investigation into the role it played in allowing the doping culture to flourish,” said Tygart. “We have always fully supported a well-structured truth and reconciliation process in order to clean up the sport and protect the rights of athletes but it is clear that the UCI cannot be allowed to script its own self-interested outcome in this effort.”

Pressure group Change Cycling Now, backed by Skins principle Jaimie Fuller, went further, calling the UCI’s actions “disgraceful.”

“The [UCI’s] unilateral decision to disband the independent commission set up to review the UCI’s own management of anti-doping procedures, is a rank and disgraceful manipulation of power by a governing body concerned only with self-preservation,” the group said in a statement. “Change Cycling Now today calls on the general sport of cycling, its National Federations and other global stakeholders to enforce the removal of a manipulative and contemptible administration that is content to drag cycling further into disrepute in order to safeguard the positions of its leaders.”

Agence France Presse contributed to this report.