Inside USADA's draft for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) (Image credit: USADA)

The War on Doping has morphed into a three-way war by press release over the past 48 hours as the UCI, WADA and USADA pick over the fall-out of the UCI's decision to suspend its own Independent Commission's inquiry into allegations of impropriety during its handling of the Lance Armstrong case.

Quite where this increasingly absurdist plotline will now lead is anyone's guess, but the Promised Land for all parties, so we are led to believe, is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Just as "transparency" and "internal testing programme" have held the status of buzzword du jour in years gone by, the all-singing, all-dancing "TRC" is now, apparently, the one-dose cure for all of cycling's ills.

With that in mind, the UCI has declared its willingness to head up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to the chagrin of WADA, who "will not consider partaking in any venture with UCI while this unilateral and arrogant attitude continues." USADA, meanwhile, has warned that the UCI "cannot be allowed to script its own self-interested outcome in this effort." Armstrong himself has since waded into the argument, advocating a WADA-run commission, telling Cyclingnews, "It's not the best way, it's the only way" and adding that "the UCI has no place at the table."

The expression Truth and Reconciliation - which itself has been borrowed perhaps insensitively from the commission that took place in South Africa in the aftermath of Apartheid - has been lobbed around with increasing abandon by various observers and interested parties in the Armstrong case, but its precise workings and scope remain resolutely unclear.

For now, the only harsh truth is that the governance and financing of any possible Truth and Reconciliation Commission are quite some way from being reconciled. But if the parties were ultimately to thrash out some kind of agreement, what might a TRC entail?

During last Friday's UCI Independent Commission procedural hearing in London, a draft copy of a USADA proposal for a Truth and Reconciliation element to that inquiry was circulated. The eight-point plan suggests a short, three to four week window in which individuals can provide evidence and also recommends a full amnesty for lower-level riders and support staff and the possibility of a discretionary amnesty for "those in positions of team ownership and control."

Under USADA's plan, dated December 15, 2012 and forwarded to the UCI Independent Commission as it sought submissions last month, the TRC would be headed not by the UCI, but by "an independent Anti-Doping Agency (eg WADA)", which USADA labels as the "Amnesty Management Organisation or AMO." This body would accumulate evidence by itself and through other anti-doping agencies. The USADA draft continues to list its eight-point plan, summarised as follows:

1. Leadership. "The AMO would be the driving force for the program, with assistance from others designated by the AMO," the USADA draft stresses. The AMO would decide on results management along with the specific anti-doping agencies which bring violations to the AMO's attention.

2. Referral of Information Relevant to UCI IC. A moot point given that the UCI's Independent Commission has been unceremoniously dumped, but both USADA and WADA appear keen that issues of impropriety relating to the UCI itself are explicitly addressed in any TRC.

3. Amnesty Window. In order "to encourage individuals to come forward in a timely fashion," evidence must be provided to the TRC within a period of "three weeks to one month." After the window closes, those who provide testimony "would have discretionary amnesty."

The USADA draft makes no suggestion that individuals should be summoned before the TRC, but rather simply offers them the opportunity to come forward of their own volition. By contrast, Armstrong has suggested that all living grand tour and world championships podium finishers should be called expressly before any TRC. "Sounds ambitious but the authorities have proven that nothing with regards to cycling is time barred," he said.

4. Who is eligible for amnesty? The TRC's aim is identify evidence of "the extent of doping in cycling" and "to give riders and lower-level athlete support personnel who were forced by the culture of cycling to participate in doping the chance of a fresh start."

The draft goes on to differentiate between riders and support staff, and those in "positions of team ownership and control," with automatic amnesty recommended for the former grouping and "discretionary amnesty" for the latter. Explicit though the distinction between the groups may seem, defining "control" within the context of a professional cycling team may prove problematic.

5. What does the Amnesty Offer? Automatic Amnesty means just that, USADA says: "no loss of results and protection against retaliation for the persons who elect to participate within the defined period." Discretionary Amnesty is a vaguer concept. Its terms will be "defined by the AMO", although USADA notes that it could also encompass no period of ineligibility and no loss of results.

6. Conditions for Amnesty. "The individual would need to provide a complete written statement describing his/her own participation in doping and knowledge of doping by others and commit to fully cooperate in investigations and proceedings conducted by WADA, anti-doping organisations, the UCI IC and other appropriate bodies," the proposal says. As well as providing "full and complete disclosure" individuals must also sign an agreement stating that any further anti-doping violation would lead to a lifetime ban.

The USADA proposal also makes provision for a "health and rehabilitation" element in which the rider must sign on for anti-doping counselling and will also be offered "medical guidance to address the consequences of past doping." Incidentally, USADA recommends that the UCI establish "an initial fund" of $250,000 to cover the costs of the health and rehabilitation programme.

7. Amnesty Disclosure and Protection of Participants. The UCI must adopt a ruling that "prevents retaliation" against individuals who have been granted amnesty. "Such individuals cannot be terminated from any position within the sport or have any other adverse action taken against them for participating in the amnesty programme."

Similarly, the UCI must agree "not to sue any person receiving amnesty for any statements made concerning any alleged anti-doping violation or conduct in relation to any anti-doping violations," a clause which the UCI IC interpreted to mean that the UCI would not sue former employees for breaching confidentiality agreements in their testimony to the TRC.

8. Investigations and results management arising out of amnesty programme.

(a) Investigations. Using the evidence amassed by the truth and reconciliation process, the AMO would then conduct investigations to determine whether or not to bring anti-doping violation cases against "individuals in cycling who did not participate in the amnesty programme."

(b) Results management. The AMO would have results management authority over the riders who come forward during the truth and reconciliation process. USADA proceeds to outline that the AMO could employ one of three options in its dealings with evidence relating to those who do not participate in the TRC, namely: (i) conduct a hearing of its own accord; (ii) notify the athlete's local anti-doping agency and proceed to CAS if that local anti-doping agency fails to act; (iii) notify the UCI and proceed to CAS if the UCI fails to act.

Finally, USADA's draft notes that if information from the UCI, national anti-doping agencies or police later determines that a rider "has not been fully truthful or cooperative", the AMO can revoke the rider's amnesty and request that the relevant anti-doping agency sanction the rider in question.

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