The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has struck back at criticism over its refusal to allow a review panel charged with exploring the UCI’s treatment of the Lance Armstrong doping affair.
In a press release issued Wednesday, the UCI cited International Olympic Committee pressure (IOC), World Anti-Doping Code, and potential criminal prosecutions as reason for denying World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and Change Cycling Now (CCN) calls for a truth and reconciliation process as part of its review.
“UCI has explained to WADA that any amnesty from UCI would have limited effect as the IOC (International Olympic Committee), national anti-doping authorities, sponsors and indeed criminal authorities could, as we have seen in the Lance Armstrong case, pursue actions against athletes admitting to doping,” said the UCI in a statement. “Secondly, we have informed WADA of our concern that any amnesty from the UCI would constitute a violation of the WADA Code. Article 20.3.9 of the WADA Code requires an international federation ‘to vigorously pursue all potential anti-doping rule violations.’ The UCI would be breaching this article if it ignored admissions of doping in evidence given to the commission.”
The governing body also said that it supports a WADA-led amnesty program for endurance sports, if the global anti-doping organization’s Code is updated to allow for it.
The three-person independent commission, initiated by UCI officials in November, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying that it would conduct a public hearing regarding amnesty and the Terms of Reference handed it by the UCI. Many, including WADA and USADA, have criticized the panel for its ties to the body it is charged with reviewing.
“It is disappointing that after UCI’s concerns were raised with WADA, rather than addressing them, they have indicated that they will pull out altogether,” said the UCI. “That notwithstanding, the UCI confirms that it will be informing the commission at the hearing next week that it is willing to provide the necessary assurances to those coming forward with evidence relevant to the independent commission’s Terms of Reference provided WADA confirms that such assurances would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the WADA Code, or, if not, it makes the necessary changes to the Code.”
Full UCI statement:
The UCI joins with the members of the Independent Commission in expressing regret that the World Anti-Doping Agency and the US Anti-Doping Agency have indicated that they will not cooperate with the Independent Commission established to investigate the allegations made against the UCI in the recent USADA reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service (USPS) team.
By way of background, WADA had proposed late last year that the UCI agree an amnesty for those coming forward to give evidence before the Commission. UCI has explained to WADA that any amnesty from UCI would have limited effect as the IOC, national anti-doping authorities, sponsors and indeed criminal authorities could, as we have seen in the Lance Armstrong case, pursue actions against athletes admitting to doping.
Secondly, we have informed WADA of our concern that any amnesty from the UCI would constitute a violation of the WADA Code. Article 20.3.9 of the WADA Code requires an International Federation “to vigorously pursue all potential anti-doping rule violations”. The UCI would be breaching this article if it ignored admissions of doping in evidence given to the Commission.
Moreover, Article 10.5.3 of the WADA Code only allows a person’s sanction to be reduced to “no more than three-quarters of the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility” provided certain criteria are met, including that the person provides information that leads to another person being found to have committed a doping violation.
USADA handed out sanctions, albeit reduced, to all those that admitted to doping while assisting the investigation. In contrast, WADA’s proposal was that anyone who came forward with information would be given a complete amnesty, with no period of ineligibility and no loss of results, and, incredibly, would be given psychological support to be financed by the UCI.
It is disappointing that after UCI’s concerns were raised with WADA, rather than addressing them, they have indicated that they will pull out altogether. That notwithstanding, the UCI confirms that it will be informing the Commission at the hearing next week that it is willing to provide the necessary assurances to those coming forward with evidence relevant to the Independent Commission’s Terms of Reference provided WADA confirms that such assurances would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the WADA Code, or, if not, it makes the necessary changes to the Code.
Further, any such evidence should be submitted within the timetable set by the Independent Commission and relate to the issues that the Commission was established to investigate. In particular, the role of the Commission is not to act as a doping confessional but rather to investigate the assertions made in USADA’s Reasoned Decision of alleged complicity in the alleged doping of Lance Armstrong and the USPS team.
Furthermore, the UCI has informed WADA that it would be willing to participate in a truth and reconciliation process covering all sports, or at least endurance sports, if appropriate changes were made to the WADA Code. The scourge of doping affects all sport, not just cycling. WADA has itself recently announced a task force to address “The ineffectiveness of the fight against doping in sport”.
USADA has asserted that Lance Armstrong and the USPS team ran the most sophisticated and professionalised doping programme that sport has ever seen. Certainly, WADA tested Lance Armstrong many times during his career and failed to find any proof of doping. USADA, too, tested Armstrong many times and similarly failed. We all had access to the same test results – and they too must have formed the view that there was an insufficient basis to pursue a doping violation against Lance Armstrong.
There is no dispute, therefore, that we are talking about doping violations that were difficult, if not impossible, to detect on the basis of the existing science and the limited methods at the disposal of anti-doping authorities. Unlike the national criminal authorities, the UCI does not have the power to carry out searches of the rooms or vehicles of athletes, nor compel riders to give evidence before a Grand Jury under the threat of criminal prosecution for perjury. The turning point in USADA’s investigation came only after it was able to collect evidence under penalty of perjury following the federal criminal investigation.
But if WADA is serious about uncovering the full extent to which modern science and the limited methods of detection available to sporting bodies and anti-doping authorities (including itself) have prevented doping, it should establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The UCI, for one, would be happy to participate in such a process and contribute to its funding.
That would clearly be a lengthy process. In the meantime, it is hoped that WADA and USADA will reconsider their positions and participate in the work of the Independent Commission, including participating in its hearing scheduled for next week.