Hearing postponed until next week to clarify amnesty question
The UCI Independent Commission has rejected a proposal from the UCI to suspend its inquiry at a procedural hearing in London on Friday. The commission will instead reconvene on Thursday, January 31, in the hope that sufficient time will have been allowed for the UCI, WADA and USADA to agree in principal on an amnesty process for a possible truth and reconciliation commission.
Sir Philip Otton, the head of the UCI Independent Commission, outlined that the inquiry had detected “the reluctance of witnesses to provide evidence without the protection of an amnesty,” and so the procedural hearing had been called in order to discuss the possibility of amending the terms of reference of the commission in order to add a truth and reconciliation element.
Counsel for the UCI, Mr. Ian Mill QC, said that the existing process “has been derailed” by calls for a truth and reconciliation commission, but said the UCI has approached WADA to discuss the possibility of such a commission. However, he noted that any TRC would deal with the wider concerns of cycling, which was not the remit of the current inquiry into allegations of impropriety against the UCI, which emerged during USADA’s investigation into doping at Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service team. The UCI suggested that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be a separate process, and expressed concerns regarding the escalating cost and possible duplication of decisions that might result.
The UCI also noted that it could not guarantee amnesty to witnesses at this point in time, as it is not currently permitted by the WADA code. Mr. Mill said that WADA accepted that it would have to change its code, but expressed doubts that any alteration could be made before the WADA foundation meets in May of this year.
Otton said that the commission had only been informed of the UCI’s openness to a truth and reconciliation commission on Thursday, and that it had thus been impossible to establish WADA and USADA’s response before Friday’s hearing. “It appears to the commission that an all-embracing agreement is not a sufficiently real possibility that we should accede to the UCI’s proposal that we should suspend this inquiry,” Otton said in his concluding remarks.
Otton said that the commission would adjourn until January 31 in order to allow discussions between WADA, USADA and the UCI to continue, which he believed “should allow sufficient time for the participants to reach an agreement in principal if not in detail.”
During the hearing, it was noted by independent commission members Malcolm Holmes QC and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson that the UCI had thus far failed to provide any documentation to the commission, in spite of a request lodged on December 3 last.
Counsel for the UCI said that it had 16 lever-arch files of documentation ready, but that these files had not been disclosed due to the lack of clarity regarding how the independent commission would proceed in the wake of its call for the installation of a truth and reconciliation commission. The UCI has since agreed to provide this documentation to the Independent Commission, which it will read before next week’s hearing. During the hearing, a draft proposal from USADA concerning how a TRC would function was circulated.
“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 outlined in the USADA Reasoned Decision from being fully investigated with expedition,” Otton said in his concluding remarks. “The commission fully recognises the immense public interest in determining how Lance Armstrong and the USPS team were able to engage in systematic doping without detection or sanction.”
The UCI Independent Commission also received assurances from the UCI that it would not take any action against current or former UCI employees who provided evidence.
In a statement to reporters immediately after the hearing, UCI president Pat McQuaid said that he had already spoken with David Howman of WADA concerning the implementation of a truth and reconciliation process. “We have listened very carefully to views of WADA, USADA, cycling stakeholders and indeed the commission, and we have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way that we can examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past,” he said. “We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with WADA on this.”