Presidents of British and Dutch federations warn UCI that independent inquiry must be truly independent
Global governing body warned over commission set up to investigate Armstrong scandal
The presidents of two of Europe's biggest cycling federations have warned the UCI that any indepndent commission set up to investigate the UCI's handling of the Armstrong affair must be truly independent.
Brian Cookson, president of British Cycling and a member of the UCI’s Management Committee, has said that cycling’s global governing body has one “last chance to re-establish itself as a credible organisation” in the appointment of an independent commission to conduct an inquiry on the Lance Armstrong scandal, while Marcel Wintels, President of the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation has warned UCI president, Pat Mcquaid that cycling faces its "deepest crisis ever".
Cookson, quoted on Telegraph.co.uk, said that only a truly independent commission empowered to look at the UCI’s own role in the Armstrong scandal, among other things, would be able to restore credibility to the governing body.
“To be honest this is the UCI’s last chance to re-establish itself as a credible organisation,” Cookson said.“Unless we have a commission that the sporting community trust to deliver verdicts on the big questions the UCI, to put it honestly, will be stuffed.”
According to Cookson, the membership of the three-member panel that will conduct the investigation, due to be confirmed each week, will be decided with input from the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee. One member is likely to be a judge enjoying an international reputation, with the other two drawn from the world of sport.
“We are looking at a commission of three to investigate everything and anything that needs looking at and, in fact, once those three are appointed they will be invited to draw up their own terms of reference. Nothing will be off limits.
"That was the strong mood of the management board meeting on Friday and we are expecting everybody from Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid downwards to be completely transparent at all times.”
Reading between the lines, there is perhaps a hint there of disquiet among members of the Management Committee regarding the insistence of McQuaid and his predecessor Verbruggen, now its Honorary President, that the UCI has nothing to hide.
That extraordinary management board meeting had been announced by McQuaid on Monday, when he confirmed that the UCI would not be challenging the decision of the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) to ban Armstrong for life and strip him of results including his seven Tour de France titles.
During the press conference where the UCI revealed its decision, McQuaid was in evident discomfort fielding questions from the press about the governing body’s role in the scandal, including being quizzed on USADA’s assertion that it had been complicit in helping cover up suspect tests for EPO by Armstrong.
Ahead of that meeting, Marcel Wintels, President of the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation (KNWU), wrote an open letter to McQuaid warning him that cycling faced its “deepest crisis ever” as a result of the systematic doping of the Armstrong era.
He went on to question whether the scourge of doping had truly been eradicated and pointing out that during the Armstrong years it had become viewed as “normal behaviour” by those involved in the sport.
Noting that the language being employed now regarding its commitment to a cleaner sport was similar to that used in the wake of the Festina affair in 1998, Wintels cautioned that cycling could not afford another “false start.”
After previous scandals, he said, the commitment to cleaning up the sport was always reaffirmed to the public and the press, but in all cases the measures implemented were not long-lasting and riders managed to find a way round them eventually.
Wintels not only urged that an international, independent commission be set up to address the issue of the extent of doping currently in the sport, but also said that any findings it made must be acted upon.
Among measures that he suggested adopting to help ensure the sport’s future were increasing the standard length of bans from the current two to four years, implementing measures not only against individuals but also their teams such as fine, loss of points and the withdrawal of licences, and banning teams from hiring any staff with past involvement with doping.
He also called for a separation of functions at the UCI to prevent conflicts of interest from arising.