UCI president Brian Cookson and his counterpart at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have agreed the “broad terms” of a Commission of Inquiry that will address “the historical doping problems in cycling.” Cookson hopes that Lance Armstrong may play a part in it, but United States Anti-Doping Agency USADA) CEO Travis Tygart says the American’s apparent willingness to talk “is a little late.”
The announcement of the general agreement over a Commission of Inquiry followed a meeting between Cookson and Fahey at the World Conference on Doping in Sport, taking place this week in Johannesburg, South Africa. Full details of the commission have yet to be agreed.
Establishing an independent commission to investigate doping within the sport was one of the main promises in Cookson’s electoral manifesto prior to him succeeding Pat McQuaid as UCI president in September.
Prior to winning that election in Florence, Cookson also said that he would prioritise looking into allegations by USADA of wrongdoing at the UCI, including that it helped cover up positive tests by Lance Armstrong.
Speaking to Reuters today, Cookson said: “Let's get all of the allegations out, find out more of the history, let's find out who was involved, what were the procedures, how did people manage to avoid tests for so long and yet be still using such serious substances and procedures.”
Referring to the label that has been used by some to describe the process, but which others point out seems to make light of South Africa’s apartheid era with which it is inexorably linked, he went on: “I don't think it is proper to use the phrase 'truth and reconciliation' but what we are trying to do is similar to that."
He revealed that there are “a fair amount of details to be agreed. The important thing is that it will be genuinely independent and take evidence from whoever wants to come and talk to it and we'll be agreeing the final details of what can be offered by way of incentive to testify and what the powers of the commission will be.
"We are really trying to look forward. We'll give it an appropriate name that will help focus people's understanding on reform, reconstruction and revalidation of our sport."
Cookson, who sees the process as a fundamental part of his election pledge to restore credibility to the sport, has said he hopes that Armstrong will co-operate with any inquiry.
Earlier this week, the American, banned for life and stripped last year of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005, told the BBC that he felt he had been harshly treated.
But Tygart, whose pursuit of Armstrong ultimately led to the former US Postal, Astana and RadioShack rider’s confession earlier this year that he did dope his way to those seven yellow jerseys, said that his apparent willingness to co-operate was motivated by self-interest as he faces legal proceedings in the US.
"He is going for a deposition in the United States in November where he is going to go under oath in a lawsuit and have to answer questions and I think that he is now being forced essentially through that process (to come clean) and that he is trying to gain an advantage," the USADA CEO told Reuters.
"It's a little late but we are still hopeful he will come and answer everything we have to ask him under oath but until he decides to do that, it is entirely premature to determine or speculate on any sort of reduction (of his life ban from sport)."
Tygart reiterated that Armstrong, who still denies USADA’s claim that he continued to dope after returning to racing in 2009, had been given ample opportunity to come forward.
"We invited him to come in June 2012 at the same time as we invited other athletes guilty of doping,” he explained. “He was the only one of the 11 that refused our offer.
"We attempted to meet again in December and in January and February this year and so far he's refused to come in and be truthful and answer all the questions under oath just like all the other athletes have done, so at this point we are going forward.
"We are hopeful that we'll get to the bottom of a deep culture of doping that took over the sport and give clean athletes final hope that they can compete successfully without having to use dangerous performance-enhancing drugs."
Cookson said that any reduction in Armstrong’s life ban was a matter for USADA alone.
"USADA is the body that has sanctioned Armstrong and those have been accepted by the UCI and WADA," he maintained, adding that USADA “may well want to look at it if Mr. Armstrong is prepared to contribute to the commission and provide further information.
"I think one of things that really interests me is allegations he seems to have made that apparently there has been collusion in the past with the UCI.,” he added.
“If that is true, those are very serious allegations and I'd like to see some evidence of that."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.