UCI independent commission to hold public hearing after WADA rejection
The Independent commission set up by the UCI has decided to hold a public hearing on a truth and reconciliation process for witnesses. The news about the hearing comes after both WADA and USADA decided not to support the commission’s work without a change in the commission’s terms of reference. A truth and reconciliation process to protect witnesses seems to be at the centre of the discussion between anti-doping organisations, the UCI Independent Commission (UCIIC) and the International Cycling Union (UCI). But also other factors of the terms of reference are under fire. John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lists several points of concern which have led to WADA’s decision not to cooperate with the UCIIC. One is that since “the Commission does not offer immunity there is no incentive for witnesses to come forward, or to even give witness statements. An approach that does not allow individuals to give evidence without the fear of retaliation will merely perpetuate the ‘omerta’ that has been an obstacle to cycling investigations in the past,” Fahey says in a statement on WADA’s website. In a recent interview with Play the Game, WADA Director General David Howman also questioned the effectiveness of a zero tolerance approach to doping sinners. In his statement on the UCIIC, Fahey further questions the timeframe of the commission’s work and the scope of the inquiry of being too focused on Lance Armstrong. According to WADA, the UCIIC has been presented with these concerns but have failed to act on them. “Despite these concerns, WADA has been informed that the Commission and UCI are not willing to change the terms of reference and timetable, and for this reason WADA has declined to spend money and dedicate resources on an inquiry that has such obvious limitations,” Fahey states. The American Anti-doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis T. Tygart also blames the UCI for the agency’s decision not to cooperate. "UCI's refusal to agree to allow a limited opportunity for riders to come forward and be truthful without fear of retribution or retaliation from the UCI obviously calls into question the UCI's commitment to a full and thorough investigation and creates grave concern that the UCI has blindfolded and handcuffed this Independent Commission to ensure a pre-determined outcome. The current terms of reference are not good for clean athletes or moving this sport forward to a better future,” Tygart says according to the USADA website. The UCIIC agrees that offering some kind of amnesty to witnesses will be beneficiary not only to the inquiry that the independent commission is facing but to the sport of cycling as a whole. “The Commission is of the view that a Truth and Reconciliation process is desirable for the purposes of this Inquiry, and that such a process would ensure that the most complete evidence is available to the Commission at its hearing in April 2013. The Commission is of the view that such a process would be in the interests not only of the Inquiry, but also of professional cycling as a whole,” writes the UCIIC in a statement published today on their website. According to the press release, the USADA has provided the UCI with a draft proposal for a truth and reconciliation process, but the UCI has not been willing to implement it. In the light of the rejection from WADA and USADA, the UCIIC is asking the UCI to give it a second thought. “The Commission, via the Solicitors to the Inquiry, has written to the UCI’s solicitors, urging the UCI to reconsider its position,” the UCIIC statement says. The public hearing on a possible Truth and Reconciliation process implemented in the UCIIC terms of reference will be held in London after 21. January 2013.