Independent Commission suspended as UCI aims to formulate truth and reconciliation process with WADA
Commission's work on hold, changes to World Anti Doping Code needed before process can move ahead
UPDATE: The Independent Commission established by the UCI to investigate its role in the Lance Armstrong scandal has "reluctantly" agreed to suspend its activities until next Thursday 31 January to allow time for the UCI to seek to agree plans in principle with the World Anti Doping Agency for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and potential doping amnesty. Both the UCI and the Independent Commission have issued statements outlining their positions (full text below) following a dramatic public hearing of the Commission in London this morning.
The UCI has stated that it "will seek to jointly develop with WADA the legal framework for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including providing for an amnesty programme," adding that it "will share a first draft of this framework with WADA no later than Monday."
Earlier today, it appeared that the Commission, which was due to hold evidential hearings in April and publish its report in June, was to be suspended indefinitely; in its own statement this afternoon, it says that "Next week [presumably after that agreement in principle has been reached], the Commission will then decide whether to proceed with the present Agenda which includes as its next item a reconsideration of the Terms of Reference."
It adds "On that occasion we will consider whether or not the Commission will continue with the present timetable and whether or not to vacate the hearing due to take place in April 2013 or to take any other appropriate action."
WADA, among others, had withdrawn from participating in the Independent Commission's process, insisting that truth and reconciliation be one of the issues discussed. While we won't know until next week whether it and the UCI, so often at crossed swords and even more so since the Armstrong scandal broke, have found common ground, it appears that the governing body is prepared to go some way towards reconciling itself with the agency on the issue.
Given the scenes in London this morning at the hearing which had already been postponed from Monday, ostensibly due to the weather, but attributed by some to be a bid on the UCI's part to buy more time, it does appear that the governing body was backed into a corner with only two options open to it - allow the Commission to collapse and suffer further damage to its credibility, or push forward with a truth and recociliation process in a format acceptable to WADA.
It seems to have chosen the second course, but there is of course no guarantee that agreement will be reached, and the next few days will therefore be critical to the entire process and with it the potential of a lasting beneficial legacy to the sport from the Armstrong era.
This morning's dramatic developments were reported in a series of posts on Twitter by BBC journalist Richard Conway, who was present at the hearing in London, which had been convened by the Commission after WADA withdrew, citing the UCI's refusal to contemplate a truth and reconcilation process.
The Commission had been pushing for consideration of such a process to be incoprated within its terms of reference, but the UCI said that it should apply not just to cycling but to all sports, or at least endurance ones, and that the World Anti Doping Code needed to be changed to comply with any potential amnesty or other provisions of the process that might be in conflict with current rules.
Detailed plans will be unveiled in March - there is talk of a three-week window for a doping amnesty to allow people to come forward - but the UCI insists that changes must be made to the Code before it can proceed.
According to Conway, the UCI said that assuming that happens, the truth and reconciliation process will start this summer and that it expects it will take a year to hear all witnesses. He added that Lance Armstrong's statement during his interview with Oprah Winfrey that he would willingly participate in such a process was a major influence on the governing body's decision.
As the hearing concluded, he was reporting something of a standoff between lawyers for the UCI and members of the Commission, who he says are concerned that the latest developments are something of a smokescreen to mask the shelving of the allegations against the governing body contained in USADA's report into the Armstrong case.
The Commission was appointed at the end of November at the request of the UCI by John Coates, President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), as well as President of the Australian Olympic Committee;
It is chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Philip Otton, and the other two members are the Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thomson and Australian QC, Malcolm Holmes, who is also President of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
Full UCI statement on Truth and Reconcilation Commission, 25 January 2013
UCI to seek to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with WADA
The International Cycling Union (UCI) today announced that it aims to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to look at doping in professional cycling. The UCI made the announcement at the first public hearing of 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. The Independent Commission, which was established on 30 November 2012, is chaired by the eminent former Court of Appeal judge Sir Philip Otton, and includes the UK House of Lords Peer and Paralympic Champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and the Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes QC.
The UCI will seek to jointly develop with WADA the legal framework for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including providing for an amnesty programme. The UCI will share a first draft of this framework with WADA no later than Monday. The aim will be to announce the final format of the Commission around the end of March. The amnesty programme will need to be approved by the WADA Foundation Board.
The UCI also committed to update the Independent Commission on its discussions with WADA before a second public hearing next Thursday.
Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, said: “We have listened carefully to the views of WADA, USADA and cycling stakeholders and have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air so that cycling can move forward. In addition to contact between our lawyers about establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission I spoke to the Director-General of WADA earlier this week and I will be speaking to its President over the weekend. I welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with WADA on this.
As I have said many times, when I became President of the UCI in 2005, the fight against the culture of doping was – together with globalisation of our sport – my top priority. The UCI’s anti-doping procedures are and have been among the most innovative and stringent in sport including being the first federation to introduce the blood passport in 2008. I hope the lessons learned from the truth and reconciliation process will help in particular to educate young riders and to help eradicate doping in its entirety from cycling.”
UCI Independent Commission decsion, 25 January 2013
The Commission wishes to express its gratitude to both Leading Counsel for their statements which have enabled the Commission to assess the present position and to reach its conclusion.
The first item on the Agenda for today is to consider the proposed Amnesty and Truth and Reconciliation process. The Commission has tried to assess what progress has been made by all parties since the Commission voiced its concerns publicly last week.
One of the difficulties that the Commission has faced in carrying out this Inquiry is the reluctance of some witnesses to engage with this Inquiry without the protection of an Amnesty that would ensure that they could provide evidence to the Commission without the fear of subsequent disciplinary action against them. Another difficulty has been the reluctance of WADA, USADA and CCN to participate in our proceedings or to provide evidence that they undoubtedly have unless there was an Amnesty in place; to which UCI until recently has been unwilling to agree.
The Commission came to the view that some form of witness Amnesty was desirable to enable the Commission to gather comprehensive evidence for this Inquiry. The Commission also believed, and still strongly believes, that an Amnesty is important for the good of professional cycling generally.
There is at present no agreement between UCI, WADA and USADA in relation to any Amnesty. The Commission is aware of the original proposal suggested by USADA which has been discussed today. The Commission was informed only yesterday of UCI’s position.
Accordingly we do not know the reaction of WADA and USADA to UCI’s position. The UCI has been unable to establish to our satisfaction what the true position is of WADA and USADA in response to UCI’s present position.
It appears to the Commission that an all-embracing agreement is not a sufficiently real possibility that we should accede to UCI’s proposal that we should suspend this Inquiry. The Commission is persuaded that we should allow an opportunity for discussions to continue and for the parties to reach a viable agreement in sufficient detail on an Amnesty.
In the circumstances the Commission has decided, with considerable reluctance, that the best course is to adjourn this Procedural Hearing until Thursday 31 January 2013 which should be sufficient time for the participants to reach an agreement in principle, if not detail. In the meantime the Commission expects to be informed by UCI of the progress of the Amnesty discussion.
Next week, the Commission will then decide whether to proceed with the present Agenda which includes as its next item a reconsideration of the Terms of Reference.
On that occasion we will consider whether or not the Commission will continue with the present timetable and whether or not to vacate the hearing due to take place in April 2013 or to take any other appropriate action. In the meantime the Commission will consider the documents in UCI’s possession, custody or control, which Leading Counsel for UCI has said will be made available today to the Commission.
There must be no doubt that the Commission is concerned to ensure that embarking on an Amnesty process does not prevent the criticisms of the UCI in the USADA Reasoned Decision from being fully investigated with expedition. The Commission recognises the immense public interest in determining why and how Lance Armstrong and the USPS team were able to engage (as recently, publicly admitted) in systematic doping without detection or sanction.
In the meantime the Commission will remain on standby and offers assistance in the process if required and will remain so whatever the outcome of the adjourned hearing.
We note the verbal assurance that if a witness gives evidence against UCI no subsequent or other disciplinary action will be taken by UCI. We direct the Solicitors for the Commission and the Solicitors for UCI to confer and formulate the precise terms of any such assurance which we will consider at the next hearing. We would like this assurance to be conveyed to any witness who is minded to come forward.