By Callum Murray
The UCI, cycling’s world governing body, under its recently-elected new president Brian Cookson, today insisted that a new 'reform commission,' intended to probe allegations that the UCI helped cover up doping in the sport in the past, is independent, despite being wholly funded by the UCI.
The UCI said that it has appointed the members of the new ‘Cycling Independent Reform Commission,’ which has a budget of SFr3 million ($3.3 million) and that it will “operate completely independently of the UCI and will organise its work as it chooses.”
The cover-up allegations emerged in the wake of last year’s devastating confession by Lance Armstrong, the former US cycling star, that he was involved in doping in all seven of his Tour de France victories.
Cookson said: “I am… delighted to announce that we now have the three-member Independent Commission which I promised in my Manifesto. This Commission will investigate the problems cycling has faced in recent years, especially the allegations that the UCI has been involved in wrongdoing in the past – allegations which have done so much to hurt the credibility of the UCI and our sport.
“Their work will also be focused on understanding what went so wrong in our sport and they will make recommendations for change so that as far as possible those mistakes are not repeated. In recognition of the scope of their task, and to emphasise that, as a sport, we need to gain a positive outcome from its work, it will be named the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC). Three individuals at the top of their respective professions have agreed to do this work, headed by Dick Marty as chairman.”
Marty is a Swiss politician and former state prosecutor who has been a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for more than 10 years. The UCI said: “In the course of this work, he has conducted various inquiries that have earned him international recognition.”
Marty will be assisted by two vice-chairmen: Germany’s Ulrich Haas, a specialist in anti-doping rules and procedures, a professor of civil procedure and civil law at the University of Zurich and an arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport; and Australia’s Peter Nicholson, a former military officer who specialises in criminal investigations in both national and international jurisdictions.
Cookson added: “The Independent Commission has already started preparatory work and will soon be given complete access to the files of the UCI and all the electronic data which was copied as soon as I was elected. It will also be seeking testimony from people involved in the sport or who have been involved in the past and we are in the final stages of discussions with WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] to agree how best to incentivise people to co-operate with the Independent Commission.
“We have agreed a budget for the Commission, which the UCI will cover in full, and we have also expressed our wish that its work be concluded this year. Other than that, the Independent Commission based in Lausanne will operate completely independently of the UCI and will organise its work as it chooses. The Commission's terms of reference will explicitly state that the Commission will act autonomously and that its members will not receive any instruction from the UCI.”
In November last year the UCI and WADA reached agreement on the “broad terms” under which the UCI would conduct the commission of inquiry into the historical doping problems in cycling, agreeing to “co-operate to finalize the detailed terms and conditions of the Inquiry to ensure that the procedures and ultimate outcomes would be in line with the fundamental rules and principles of the World Anti-Doping Code.”
It had been thought that agreement was being obstructed over the UCI's desire to offer amnesties to riders confessing to doping in the past, something for which there is no provision in WADA's World Anti-Doping Code. For instance, Cookson said that an amnesty could even be offered to Armstrong, provided that he presents “extraordinary evidence” of wrongdoing by others.
Cookson had earlier urged riders and managers who have been involved in doping in the past to hand information on doping practices to the new commission, following the publication of a book by former rider and doping cheat Michael Rasmussen.
Cookson told Reuters: “All such allegations and confessions will be looked at by the new Independent Commission and we would urge anyone concerned to bring forward their information to the Commission.”
Rasmussen accused several former riders and managers of being involved in doping in the book, ‘Yellow Fever’, while Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, the winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia, also recently admitted to doping “more than 10 years ago.”
Cookson said in today’s statement: “Other work well under way includes the audit of the UCI's current anti-doping activities by iNADO who are using top staff from the anti-doping organisations of Finland and Norway for this work which will conclude at the end of the month. This is completely distinct from the work of the Independent Commission and is focussed on assuring that our current operations are as good as they can be.
“In other ways the progress will be more subtle as we change the way the UCI works to make it a more transparent and modern organisation, one which people trust. My vision is simple, I want us to be the best international federation in the world, a federation that merits its beautiful and enduring sport, and I want our sport to be one in which everyone – fans, participants, media, sponsors, governments – can have the utmost trust and confidence”