The precise future of the UCI Independent Commission has been thrown into some doubt at its procedural hearing, although the UCI’s first public commitment to some form of a truth and reconciliation process was forthcoming in London on Friday.
Counsel for the UCI called for the suspension of the existing independent commission - which the UCI itself set up - in favour of a superseding truth and reconciliation commission during a morning of legal reasoning that at times lurched between the Kafkaesque and the Python-esque.
The UCI Independent Commission has adjourned until Thursday of next week in the hope that will allow sufficient time for the UCI, WADA and USADA to agree in principal on an amnesty process for a possible truth and reconciliation commission. Whether that truth and reconciliation commission falls under the remit of the UCI Independent Commission or a separate body is all to be decided, but when the dust settled on Friday’s hearing, UCI president Pat McQuaid told reporters that he had already begun negotiations with the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“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, and clear the air so that cycling can move forward,” McQuaid said. “We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with WADA on this. I have already spoken in recent days with David Howman, and I will speak with the president of WADA at the weekend.”
The major stumbling block to any TRC is the thorny question of amnesty for those who provide evidence. There is no provision for amnesty under the existing WADA code and counsel for the UCI pointed out that alterations cannot be made to the code until the WADA foundation meets in May. McQuaid said he believed that the WADA foundation would agree to make provision for amnesty in the code.
“We would love to have been in the position to give an amnesty freely, but we weren’t in a position to do that. It will take until the WADA code changes to do that,” said McQuaid, who intimated that it was his preference to hold a truth and reconciliation in conjunction with WADA rather than solely under the auspices of the UCI.
“We have had correspondence with WADA on how an amnesty would work but we haven’t got clearance in advance on that. We would have to sit down and work it out,” he said. “They are the world anti-doping agency and anti-doping is their responsibility, and we couldn’t do it without them.”
In calling for the suspension of the existing UCI Independent Commission, the UCI cited the potential cost of paying for two ongoing commissions. “The UCI doesn’t have the resources to fund two processes and we have to make a decision on which is the most suitable for the sport. I think that for the sport to break the omertà and move forward, the truth and reconciliation process is the way forward,” said McQuaid, who indicated that costs for a separate TRC would be shared between the UCI and WADA.
Asked why the UCI had taken the seemingly contradictory step of calling for the suspension of a commission that it had itself set up, McQuaid said that the governing body had detected a groundswell of demand for a truth and reconciliation commission.
“Our management committee took the decision in October to set up an independent commission to look purely at the allegations against the UCI in the USADA report, but since then, other stakeholders have asked for a truth and reconciliation process,” he said.
McQuaid also said that the UCI had not provided documentation to the Independent Commission before Friday afternoon because of the commission’s call for the addition of a truth and reconciliation element to its terms of reference last week. The Independent Commission lodged a request with the UCI for documentation on December 3 last.
It is unclear as to why the UCI waited until Thursday to indicate to the Independent Commission that it would be willing to engage with a truth and reconciliation commission, albeit under different auspices.
McQuaid said that he believed the Independent Commission’s raison d’être, to investigate the allegations of UCI impropriety that emerged during USADA’s investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, could be dealt with by the potential UCI-WADA TRC.
“We feel that a lot of the allegations in the USADA report are allegations made by riders. Those riders, if they come forward to the truth and reconciliation process, can make those allegations again and the UCI can respond to those allegations within that process,” he said.
McQuaid rejected the idea that in calling for the replacement of the existing commission - which is due to report its findings in June - with a new process of presumably longer duration, he was deliberately hoping to delay any final report on his part in the Armstrong affair until after he stands for re-election as president of the UCI in September.
“It makes no difference,” he said. “I have nothing to worry about. I have the support of my management committee and the support of my federation currently.”
Asked if he expected Lance Armstrong to participate in any truth and reconciliation commission, McQuaid said: “Well, we heard him say the other day that he would be one of the first in the door, and it would be important if he came that he disclosed a lot more than he disclosed on television.”