WADA director general David Howman has admitted that allegations made by Floyd Landis surrounding bribery and corruption within the sport which he claimed reached all the way to the UCI, could be possible.
In November of last year, Landis appeared on German television and claimed that “it is known in the peloton” that the UCI has “protected some people” over the years. He also accused the UCI of taking bribes, conducting cover-ups and manipulating test results. He also claimed that the UCI met with Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel in order to cover up a positive dope test from an edition of the Tour de Suisse.
Armstrong, Bruyneel and then UCI President Hein Verbruggen have all denied the allegations, while the UCI has opened legal proceedings against Landis. No individual named has been charged for drug or fraud related offences.
However Howman has said that allegations made by Landis could have been possible under the climate sport was organised under during the time.
“Yes it was possible. Remember, that was all before the [WADA] code so there wasn’t the same monitoring. The second thing is, there are lots of things that are possible that might not happen. But if you looked at the whole process now I could find ways and means myself of trying to beat it. That means people who have a mind to beat the system will use those tactics,” he told Cyclingnews.
“The process relies on good, high values from those in the key points. I’ve got nothing against the lab director in Switzerland and I don’t think he’s a bad guy but the pressure that may have been put on him in 2001 may have been different to now because he’s now more protected by us. In those days he might have been more isolated. So anything is possible and we’ll see what the investigators make of those suggestions.”
“They’re just allegations at the moment. The allegations are under investigations by the agencies here and we’ll see if there’s anything to them. It’s premature to say there’s corruption before it’s proved.”
Federal investigators in the US launched an investigation into Landis’ allegations and so far their ongoing enquiries have lead to mainland Europe, with discussions with authorities in France, Italy, and Switzerland. As yet, not one single individual has been placed under investigation but Howman stressed that WADA were committed to a thorough investigation, regardless of any possible outcome. Howman told Cyclingnews that he has ensured that the FDA has received collaboration from Interpol in order to assist their work.
“I think there’s sufficient allegations to make sure there’s an investigation and that’s what we’ve said from the word go. All these things should be looking into totally. And what we’ve also said is that you can do some things in the United States but that you’ve got to make sure that it covers Europe as well. You cant just think that an enquiry into the United States will cover it all so we’ve put them in touch with Interpol with police in France, Italy and Switzerland.
“I’ve not met with the enquirers. I don’t think I need to meet with them. I’ve not got first hand information, just second and third hand information which is not as good as the real thing," Howman admitted.
“I think it’s a very important thing for cycling and for anti doping for it to be completed and for the information to be laid out. It’s got to be laid out.”
The FDA, with Jeff Novitzky, who led the Balco investigation, is in charge of this latest fraud case, and is trying to determine whether Armstrong, US Postal owners, managers and teammates conspired to defraud sponsors by doping to improve performances and hence the likelihood of securing better results and the possible monetary benefits of this.
Authorities are seeking to determine whether money from headline sponsor US Postal Service was used to buy performance-enhancing drugs during its time of sponsorship between 1996 and 2004.
“Everyone wishes it finishes months ago but what we do know is that we’re not talking about doping, we’re talking about fraud. Doping is part of the fraud but it’s the fraud that goes to a very high degree of money so we’re not talking about dollars and cents, we’re talking about millions of dollars and involving people higher up than athletes so it’s pretty important we get it right.”
“And I don’t think anyone will be charged with fraud unless it’s right. So I guess they have to make sure they have their ducks in a row and then pull the trigger.”