Armstrong Commission Halted As It Awaits UCI Files

Lance Armstrong_2011_headshot
by Julian Guyer

LONDON, Jan 25, 2013 (AFP) – An independent commission set up by the
International Cycling Union following the Lance Armstrong scandal was
suspended Friday after it emerged it had yet to receive a document from the
sport’s global governing body.

“We have yet to receive any documents from the UCI,” an initial procedural
hearing in London was told by Guy Morpuss, lawyer to the commission.

Later, inquiry chairman Philip Otton, a former judge in England’s Court of
Appeal, said he was, “with considerable reluctance” suspending the hearing
until January 31.

Afterwards, embattled UCI president Pat McQuaid told reporters: “A truth
and reconciliation hearing is the best way we can examine the process.

“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 an International Olympic
Committee body evaluating cities for the 2020 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,” McQuaid, UCI chief since 2005, said.

“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 whole 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, an angry
Tanni Grey-Thompson, the British former Paralympic champion who is one of the
three members of the commission, asked: “When we will get the files?”

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

But he said the UCI had been taken aback by the commission’s call, in a
press release last week, for an amnesty and a truth and reconciliation process
which he thought went beyond their original remit of just looking into the UCI.

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

Last week the WADA and the United States Doping Agency (USADA) — the
organisation whose investigations into Armstrong led to him being stripped of
his seven Tour de France titles for doping offences — were among those who
said they were withdrawing from the hearing because of the lack of an amnesty.

“This commission still strongly believes an amnesty is important for the
good of professional cycling generally,” Otton said Friday after his panel
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 31.”

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

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

And McQuaid said: “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.”