ALICANTE, Spain (VN) — The UCI confirmed three members to head up a promised independent inquiry that will examine allegations of illicit activities and wrongdoing within cycling’s governing body.
Newly elected UCI president Brian Cookson said Wednesday the panel will have a free hand to delve into documents and other data that has been stored under lock and key since September in a wide-ranging inquiry that he hopes will be completed within one year.
“This Commission will investigate the problems cycling has faced in recent years, especially the allegations that the UCI has been involved in wrongdoing in the past — allegations which have done so much to hurt the credibility of the UCI and our sport,” Cookson said Wednesday in a UCI announcement. “Their work will also be focused on understanding what went so wrong in our sport and they will make recommendations for change so that as far as possible those mistakes are not repeated.”
Cookson promised he would revive inquiries into the UCI’s past as one of the key points of his election platform. Early in 2013, former UCI president Pat McQuaid shut down a similar inquiry following disagreements on the scope of the investigation.
Cookson promises investigators will have a free hand to delve into allegations of wrongdoing and other accusations, many of which came to light as part of the USADA investigation into the Lance Armstrong case. A report in The Telegraph claims that Armstrong will not provide evidence to the panel, based on his request of amnesty from his lifetime ban. Armstrong, on the other hand, told VeloNews the UCI has not contacted him.
The group will be the “Cycling Independent Reform Commission,” and will include three members experienced in investigations and international crime networks.
Heading up the effort as chairman is Swiss politician and prosecutor Dick Marty, who has an extensive resume that includes inquiries into such themes as organized crime, trafficking of human organs, and secret prisons run by the CIA in Europe.
The other two members include Germany’s Ulrich Haas, an arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport who worked on the clenbuterol case involving Alberto Contador. The other is Australia’s Peter Nicholson, who boasts a military background with experience in investigations of war crimes for the United Nations.
Aurélie Merle, who has extensive experience within the International Olympic Committee and the UN, will also coordinate the effort.
The UCI is funding the effort, and Cookson promised full autonomy for the panel, adding that data retrieved within hours of winning the UCI election will be fully available to investigators.
“The [independent commission] has already started preparatory work and will soon be given complete access to the files of the UCI and all the electronic data which was copied as soon as I was elected,” Cookson continued. “It will also be seeking testimony from people involved in the sport or who have been involved in the past and we are in the final stages of discussions with WADA to agree how best to [provide incentives] to people to cooperate with the Independent Commission.”
Cookson also reiterated its independence, saying it will work from offices in Lausanne rather than in the UCI headquarters at Aigle, Switzerland.
“The [commission] will operate completely independently of the UCI and will organize its work as it chooses,” Cookson said. “The Commission’s terms of reference will explicitly state that the Commission will act autonomously and that its members will not receive any instruction from the UCI.”