Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound voiced his concern over the UCI's decision to request that John Coates recommends personnel for their Independent Commission. While Pound believes that Coates is capable of making recommendations, he believes that the fact both Coates and Hein Verbruggen, the honorary President of the UCI, are both members of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) could be conceived as a conflict of interest. However Pound adds that the mandate of the Commission will be the proof over whether the panel is truly independent.
Coates is also the President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) and the Commission will look at the serious allegations and behaviour of the UCI during the Lance Armstrong era. The UCI faced several allegations which included covering up a positive test and bribery after accepting several donations from Armstrong.
However Pound also told Cyclingnews that WADA should have been the UCI's first port of call but that the frosty relationship may have led cycling's governing body to turn to CAS.
"The obvious thing for the UCI would have been to approach WADA, but they don't like WADA. They think WADA have been picking on them over the years so they went to CAS as arguably an organisation with no skin in the game at all," Pound told Cyclingnews.
Asked if Coates and Verbruggen's positions on the IOC were an issue, Pound said:
"Well, it's troubling. What you hope is that everyone stands back. It would be more troubling if another IOC member was sitting on the commission. Then people would say it was the gang working for each other. I think you're likely to see a judge or lawyer preside over the commission, and then a forensic accountant and there are no forensic accountants at the IOC. The real proof in the pudding will be how the Commission define their mandate because I really think cycling has to take a look at more than just Lance Armstrong. It's a problem that's endemic in the sport and they're teetering on the edge of a total lack of credibility. So they have to make sure that the commission has full power to investigation and obtain evidence that would go into and thorough and full report."
Another area of interest could be Coates' past. As well as his positions at the IOC and ICAS, he is also Australian Olympic Committee and chairman of the Australian Olympic Foundation. He also led the successful Sydney Olympic Games bid but in 1999, it came to light that he had made two donations of $70,000 to two IOC delegates in order to obtain their voting support. At around the same time, Pound led an investigation into the Salk Lake city winter Olympic bid. The Sydney bid beat Beijing to the 2000 Games by two votes. Coates denied that his actions amounted to bribery.
"He acknowledged that he made some payments to a couple of the African members of the IOC. There was not particular fallout from the report other than the Kenyan resigned. The other, he was able to establish that the money went into a foundation that supported sport in Uganda."
"I think he's a very bright guy and he's done well by Australian sport. He was asked by the UCI, wearing his hat as the president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport if he might suggest some people to them, who could be asked to undertake the investigation they promised they would launch. He's not involved more than that."
Since the fallout from the Armstrong investigation calls for the UCI president Pat McQuaid and Verbruggen to resign have increased. Greg LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, and journalist Paul Kimmage have been the most prominent and vocal in their demands for new leadership in Aigle.
The UCI's decision to set up an Independent Commission and a separate consultation project with cycling stakeholders are attempts to address the body's credibility. Pound, who was sued by the UCI the last time they set up an independent commission, wrestled with the question over Verbruggen and McQuaid's leadership.
"I've always hesitated not to say that [they should resign - ed.] and I've turned it around. Generally speaking within any particular sport, the people that know most about the sport and who should be able to get at the problem are people already in that sport. This is a cycling problem and the cycling world, the Canadian federation, the French the British and so on, they are going to have to say 'we're in the shit, we've got to do something to get out of it, are you the right people to do it? If you are, get on with it, if not then maybe we should be looking for someone else.'
"But that has to come from cycling itself. Maybe the commission would say there's no moral authority for you and it's time for you to move on but they could only make recommendations. They couldn't make it actually happen.
The UCI's decision to approach ICAS over WADA may stem from the UCI's perception that WADA have an agenda against them. In the summer McQuaid told Cyclingnews that "Historically over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a political campaign against cycling by senior people within WADA and I don't think that's acceptable."
However Pound refuted the claim and told Cyclingnews: "We have a concern with lots of organisation that are not doing as much as they should to deal with doping and cycling is certainly one of them. Cycling has resolutely adopted this injured innocence of 'they’re picking on us, and the reason they’re picking on us is that we have the best anti doping programme in the word and we catch people'. But what we’re saying is there is a doping problem in cycling and you should know that more than we do. There are lots of ways you can improve but you don't do it. We’ve written to them and spoken to them but we get no change."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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