Independent Reform Commission offers olive branch to Lance Armstrong

The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) has announced its terms of reference, specifying that the time period which will be examined will be the years 1998-2013, which includes all the years Lance Armstrong raced after his comeback from cancer.

The CIRC also announced it has the authority to propose reduced sanctions and stated that it will offer bigger reductions for testimony which provides "valuable information" of rule violations or "other significant anti-doping relevant circumstances".

Reduced sanctions were not to be available to those who are currently serving bans, but the CIRC opened the door for Armstrong by stating, "on a case by case basis, the CIRC can recommend an ad hoc reduction in sanction for a License Holder who is currently serving a period of ineligibility".

The CIRC also stated that, "investigation into UCI past wrongdoings will also be a core part of the CIRC mandate". Armstrong indicated in November that former UCI president Hein Verbruggen helped cover up evidence of his doping. Verbruggen denied this was true.

The commission called for testimony in what it says will be a "strictly confidential" investigation, and offered reduced sanctions to any license holders (riders, officials, agents, organisers, team staff) who admit to anti-doping rule violations. Riders will not be asked to return prize money gained during the period of their anti-doping rule violations.

"The investigation’s primary objective is not to punish anti-doping offences by single riders, but rather to identify and tackle the practices and networks that have instigated and/or facilitated doping in cycling over the relevant period," the CIRC press release stated.

"The final objective of the investigation shall be the production of a comprehensive report illustrating the causes of, and responsibility for, the doping practices that took place within the relevant period and to make targeted recommendations to the whole cycling family."

No circus atmosphere

The public should not expect a circus atmosphere around the proceedings. The CIRC, it said, will "conduct its investigation on a strictly confidential basis and will take all measures necessary to guarantee such confidentiality."

Swiss politician and former state prosecutor Dick Marty will head the commission. He is flanked by anti-doping specialist, and CAS arbitrator, Ulrich Haas and former Australian military officer, Peter Nicholson. Assisting the trio is Aurélie Merle, who has experience in investigation and justice work for the UN. Haas is a highly respected CAS arbitrator and handled Alberto Contador’s appeal after his positive test for Clenbuterol and Riccardo Ricco’s unsuccessful appeal against his twelve-year ban.

“Today marks an important step in understanding the past and restoring the credibility of our sport," UCI President Brian Cookson said in a press release. 

"The Cycling Independent Reform Commission will not only help us learn from the past, but will also play an important role in shaping our future processes and practices. I committed to this process before I was elected in September 2013 and I'm pleased to see the CIRC fully operational only a few months later.  It is essential that the Commission is left to get on with its investigation on a completely independent basis and I have ensured that all the structures are in place to allow this to happen.”

Further details of the CIRC activities and mandate are expected in a press conference in Geneva.

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