Brian Cookson says he won't be calling Lance Armstrong, but says life ban could be reduced
UCI president says issue is for independent commission & USADA to deal with and would depend on co-operation given
UCI president Brian Cookson has said the independent commission he has set up into doping could result in Lance Armstrong receiving a reduction in his life ban from sport – but says the American shouldn’t sit by the phone waiting for a call from him.
In recent months, the 42-year-old Armstrong has said that he would be prepared to testify in front of an independent commission of the type that Cookson announced earlier this month.
Called the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), the UCI president hopes it will publish its report “within a year.”
But Cookson maintains it’s not up to him whether the former US Postal Service, Atsana and RadioShack rider is called to give evidence.
“He won’t get a phone call from me,” he insisted, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.
He was speaking in Australia where he is attending the first UCI WorldTour race of the season, the Santos Tour Down Under.
“I am deliberately not speaking to anyone about what [people] may or may not contribute to the commission,” continued Cookson.
“That's the job of the commission. It's independent. It's impartial. We at the UCI have given it broad guidelines.
“It can change those if it wants to in a relatively smart, small way. That's not a problem. If it wants to go back further than, say, 1998, which is a date that most people seem to think is a good start point, it can do so.”
“If it wants to broaden its scope, it can do so,” he said, adding: “It's not got unlimited time. It's not got an unlimited budget.
“But they will open up for business as soon as they can get all the administration sorted… and Lance will be able to contact them just the same as everybody else.
“Maybe they will go to seek people. They will certainly flag out and advertise, as it were, how to get involved.
“I'll leave it to them whether they are proactive and knock on his door, or whether they wait for him to come to them.”
In October 2012, Amstrong was banned from sport for life and stripped of results dating back to 1998, including the seven successive Tour de France victories he claimed between 1999 and 2005.
Subsequently, he confessed in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had doped his way to all seven of those wins, although he insisted he did not cheat after coming out of retirement in 2009 – something that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) maintains he did.
That has led to an impasse between Armstrong and USADA. Last month, the agency’s CEO, Travis Tygart, said that after months of discussion with Armstrong about whether he might make a full disclosure of his doping to the agency under oath, there was no chance of that now happening.
One view is that since an admission of doping in years from 2009 onwards would not yet be subject to a statute of limitations, any confession from Armstrong relating to that period would see further lawsuits brought against him by sponsors and others.
Cookson has said that if Armstrong were to see his life ban reduced, it would depend on “what's he's able to reveal" to the independent commission, “but that's not going to be in my hands,” saying the final decision would rest with USADA.
“He has been sanctioned by USADA, and they would have to agree in a reduction in his sanction based on the validity and strength of the information he provided.
“If they are happy, if WADA are happy, then I'll be happy.”
Cookson was questioned about the retired Australian rider Stuart O’Grady, who last year confessed to having used EPO but maintains he only did so once, in 1998.
"I'm not going to comment on an individual if I can avoid it, for obvious reasons," he replied.
"But what I will say is I would encourage everyone to tell all of the truth.
"If you tell a partial truth – and I'm not saying anyone is doing [that] – the thing about the truth is it comes out in the end.
"It might be six months, it might be 10 years, it might be a generation, but it comes out in the end.
"It's better and less painful for everyone."
Speaking about another rider banned for life, Danilo Di Luca – who earlier this week claimed that 9 in 10 riders taking part in the Giro d’Italia are doping – Cookson said: “CONI [the Italian Olympic Committee] have called him in now to explain his comments, and that is at it should be.
“It is a situation that was in place in his time. He is something of a throwback to an earlier time.
“The things he's saying that are the sort of things that people from his era have said all along ... 'I did it. I was no worse or better than anyone else.'”
While the UCI president is insistent that Di Luca belongs to the sport’s past, the positive test for EPO that snared him and resulted in a life ban due to the fact it was the third time he had been sanctioned, arose from a test conducted less than nine months ago, shortly before the Giro d’Italia began in Naples.