An independent commission set up by the International Cycling Union following the Lance Armstrong scandal was suspended Friday after it emerged it had yet to receive a document from the sport’s global governing body.
“We have yet to receive any documents from the UCI,” an initial procedural hearing in London was told by Guy Morpuss, lawyer to the commission.
Later, inquiry chairman Philip Otton, a former judge in England’s Court of Appeal, said he was, “with considerable reluctance” suspending the hearing until January 31. Afterwards, embattled UCI president Pat McQuaid told reporters: “A truth and reconciliation hearing is the best way we can examine the process.
“Our procedures are the most innovative and stringent in sport, we were the first (sports) federation to introduce a biological passport in 2008 and we want to eradicate doping in cycling.”
McQuaid, who said he had resigned Thursday from an International Olympic Committee body evaluating cities for the 2020 Games because “my sport needs me”, added: “We want a truth and reconciliation commission with WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency).
“We cannot do it without them,” McQuaid, UCI chief since 2005, said. “The foundation board of WADA have to change the WADA code to give an amnesty. Their next meeting is in May they can change that regulation straight away.”
Asked how long the whole process might take, the Irishman replied: “It’s very difficult to know the timescale…But I don’t want a cloud hanging over the sport for the next year or two years.” Earlier, after the UCI revealed it had 16 files of documents, an angry Tanni Grey-Thompson, the British former Paralympic champion who is one of the three members of the commission, asked: “When we will get the files?”
Ian Mill, lawyer for the UCI, said the governing body “had no desire to suppress or conceal the documents”. But he said the UCI had been taken aback by the commission’s call, in a press release last week, for an amnesty and a truth and reconciliation process which he thought went beyond their original remit of just looking into the UCI.
He added the UCI could not offer an amnesty to cyclists who admitted doping offenses as this would breach existing WADA rules. Last week the WADA and the United States Doping Agency (USADA) – the organisation whose investigations into Armstrong led to him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping offences were among those who said they were withdrawing from the hearing because of the lack of an amnesty.
“This commission still strongly believes an amnesty is important for the good of professional cycling generally,” Otton said Friday after his panel deliberated for 45 minutes. “But the UCI has been unable to establish an all-embracing agreement…In the circumstances, the commission has decided, with considerable reluctance, to adjourn the procedural hearing until Thursday, January 31.”
Otton added: “The commission recognizes the immense public interest in how Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team were able to engage in systematic doping without detection or sanction.”
Armstrong indicated last week he would participate in a truth and reconciliation process during a television interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey.
And McQuaid said: “We heard Lance Armstrong say he will be one of the first in the door. It’s important he discloses a lot more than he disclosed on TV.”