London: The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced on Monday it had disbanded the independent commission it had set up to investigate alleged involvement by the global governing body in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
UCI said it was shutting down the commission, which only met in public for the first time on Friday, because both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Doping Agency (USADA) had refused to co-operate with its investigations and thus any report it produced would be dismissed “as not being complete or credible”.
UCI president Pat McQuaid, who attended Friday’s hearing in London, said they had been left with little choice but to disband the commission after WADA labelled it a “useless exercise”.
“Over the weekend I spoke to John Fahey, president of WADA,” McQuaid said in a statement on Monday.
“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...We have therefore decided to disband the independent commission with immediate effect.”
McQuaid added WADA had concluded “UCI was not allowing the commission to conduct a proper and independent investigation,” and had, therefore, “decided not to take part and invest its limited resources into such a questionable and useless exercise”.
It was an investigation by USADA that led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
And it was comments in their “reasoned decision” regarding the UCI’s alleged complicity in his drug-taking and the conduct of the American’s US Postal Service team that led cycling chiefs to set up the independent commission.
An inaugural procedural hearing of the three-member commission chaired by Philip Otton, a former judge in England’s Court of Appeal, and also including British Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson and Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes, was suspended on Friday until this Thursday.
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 they could not conduct a TRC hearing without them.
But this is set to be a new process given that Thursday’s commission hearing won’t now take place.
“We do this with regret, but given the stance of WADA we did not see any other option,” insisted Irishman McQuaid, UCI president since 2005, who said the commission’s work would be shared with the TRC, which he hoped would be running later this year.
He added: “This is too important for rushed discussions, or hasty decisions.
“It is completely unrealistic to expect that we and WADA can sort through all the details of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in just a couple of days, based on an arbitrary deadline set by the independent commission of Thursday.”
He also said there were cost implications for the UCI, given WADA “contrary to earlier indications” had refused to contribute financially.
“While I am committed to a TRC, it needs to be a process which is in the best interests of our sport and our federation—and which also does not bankrupt it,” McQuaid said.
“I hope the lessons learned from the truth and reconciliation process will help in particular to educate young riders and to help eradicate doping in its entirety from cycling.” AFP