Posted by Editoress on 01/15/13
Almost before it gets started, the UCI's Independent Commission to investigate allegations of wrongdoing during the Lance Armstrong period has received a serious setback. Both the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA) have released statements that they will not participate in the Commission.
Both say that the terms of reference are flawed - they are not broad enough, it is not independent enough, the time frame is too short and, that without immunity for testimony, witnesses have no protection from sanctions if they testify.
Following communication with lawyers representing the Independent Commission set up to look into doping issues that have plagued the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the sport of cycling, WADA has informed the UCI that it has decided not to partake in the inquiry.
Over the course of several communications, WADA has shared a number of serious concerns as to the Commission’s terms of reference and its ability to carry out its role without undue influence.
In particular, WADA is concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too focused on sanctioned former cyclist Lance Armstrong - especially as his case is closed and completed with there being no appeal - and will therefore not fully address such a widespread and ingrained problem.
WADA also has concerns over the time-frame agreed for the Commission. A June deadline for the Commission’s report is wholly insufficient and will result in a lost opportunity to properly investigate the problem.
There is further concern that the UCI has had too much influence over the terms of reference, which calls into question the Commission’s independence. The terms of reference were signed off by the UCI and the Commission without consultation with anti-doping authorities, while the requirement for the Commission to deliver its report to the UCI before any other party is unacceptable.
Finally, because 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.
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.
WADA will of course monitor the inquiry and if its concerns are fully met it will reconsider its decision to not take part.
Following discussions with the UCI Independent Commission regarding its Terms of Reference, USADA and many others contacted by the Commission have all explained how important it is for the future of clean sport for the Commission to adopt additional terms of reference including a limited Truth and Reconciliation and Amnesty Program for the sport of cycling and to implement provisions that will protect Commission witnesses from retaliation by the UCI. USADA understands the Commission agrees with these proposals, but that the UCI has rejected these important components for the Commission and refuses to allow the Commission's Terms of Reference to be modified.
USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said, "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.”
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