MILAN (VN) — The UCI is under fire in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and has put its fate in the hands of an independent commission charged with reviewing the federation’s handling of sports doping. The three-member commission is meeting already and, after hearings in April, is scheduled to issue its findings in June.
Philip Otton, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Malcolm Holmes, all with many of letters and titles surrounding their names, are tasked with the job. They are to dig up evidence relating to corruption claims, working within a structure announced Friday, and propose changes to the way the UCI manages its anti-doping efforts.
The three could, for example, find that the UCI knew of Armstrong’s doping over the last 15 years and that it helped him cover it up, even taking money to do so. Such a finding would seriously rattle cycling’s foundations and have lasting effects. It leads many to wonder, “Just who are these three people with such power?”
John Coates knows because he selected the three members. Last month, the UCI appointed him to recommend candidates. Coates is the president of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), the institution supervising sport’s high court in Switzerland, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). VeloNews contacted CAS to interview Coates about the trio. The request was forwarded to the commission’s press officer, who said that Coates was unavailable at this point in the process.
Meanwhile, Otton, Grey-Thompson and Holmes are busy working.
The former high-level judge
Sir Philip Otton, a former England and Wales appeals court judge, heads the panel. The 79-year-old has handled other sporting cases involving Formula 1 racing, the America’s Cup, and British soccer’s Premier League. Besides sport, he mediates in the commercial, insurance, and energy fields. He is the “respected senior lawyer” the UCI said it wanted to chair the panel when it appointed Coates last month.
Brains and brawn
Grey-Thompson and Holmes will follow Otton’s lead with years of sporting experience between them. Grey-Thompson, or Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, is an 11-time gold medalist at the Paralympic Games, last competing in Athens in 2004. She has brains and brawn, graduating with a degree in Politics and Social Administration.
David Millar of Garmin-Sharp might recognize her name. As a board member of U.K. Athletics from 2007, she reviewed its anti-doping procedures. Her review covered the British Olympic Association’s bylaw that had enforced a lifetime ban on dopers — like Millar — wishing to compete in the Olympics.
She stood behind the BOA’s regulation, which CAS overturned earlier this year. “I wholeheartedly support the BOA,” she told the U.K. Sports Writers Association last year. “It doesn’t make sense, but people who decide to cheat shouldn’t have the prize of competing at the Olympics.”
The CAS panelist
The CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the final battleground for sporting cases, such as Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol case earlier this year. Holmes, a Sydney-based lawyer, has chaired or sat on the panel for several different cases over the last six years. In 2005, he was the chair when the court dismissed Tyler Hamilton’s case against the UCI and USADA. Hamilton had called into question the anti-doping blood test that found him positive at the 2004 Vuelta a España, but has recently admitted his guilt.
Holmes has experience in arbitration and mediation, and has published several papers on the topics, including, “The CAS: A case study of an International Arbitration Institution.”
‘On the right track’
Former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound criticized the UCI’s selection of Coates. Others said that WADA itself should have assembled the panel. Coates, however, has seemly gathered three independent members to review cycling’s world governing body. The UCI is claims to be so convinced of the panel’s independence that it will need its own lawyers throughout the process.
“Some of our critics have suggested that this commission would not be fully independent. They were wrong,” UCI president Pat McQuaid said Friday in a press release. “The appointment of these three eminent figures demonstrates clearly that the UCI wants to get to the bottom of the Lance Armstrong affair and put cycling back on the right track.”
We should by spring get a measure of the veracity of the commission’s independent status. Oddly, the UCI on Monday issued a press release on behalf of the commission, directing interested parties to visit the commission’s website.
The trio will hold hearings in London from April 9 to 26. Its three members will issue its findings more than a month later, just before the Tour de France. Their decision has the power to put cycling on the right path, but at the same time, to destroy its governing body.