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Volume: 10 Issue: 10
(October 2012)

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Independent external commission to investigate UCI

An independent external commission will investigate allegations that the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) was complicit in Lance Armstrong’s doping, the UCI announced on 26 October. The UCI will nominate an ‘independent sports body’ in the week starting 5 November, which will nominate members for an independent commission to deliver a report and recommendations by 1 June 2013.

Sporting organisations called for an investigation after the UCI recognised the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) sanctions on 22 October. ‘There must be more action to combat the system that took over the sport’, read a statement from USADA CEO Travis Tygart on 22 October. ‘Only an independent truth and reconciliation commission can fully start cycling on the path towards true reform’.

President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) John Fahey told the Associated Press that the UCI had to “take the blinkers off” and consider removal of officials in charge during the Armstrong era. “I don’t think there’s any credibility if they don’t do that”, he said.

WADA must decide whether it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by 21 November, the date by which Armstrong must also file any appeal. In approving USADA’s 24 August decision to ban Armstrong for life and annul all results after 1 August 1998, the UCI emphasised it is WADA’s place to appeal to CAS what it perceives as USADA’s violation of Article 17 of the Code. This only allows sanctions within eight years of the alleged offence. ‘It is WADA’s role and responsibility to ensure compliance with the Code and to appeal to the CAS in order to warrant…that the Code is applied in a uniform way and all athletes are treated equally’, read the UCI statement. The UCI said it, WADA and national anti-doping organisations must examine why Armstrong never reported a positive in 218 UCI tests.

“We will study UCI’s response to the USADA report and await to receive their full decision, including further potential sanctions against Lance Armstrong as well as regarding any ramifications to his case”, said an IOC spokesperson. ‘Cycling must act on the lessons from USADA’s thorough investigation’, said a statement from British Cycling President Brian Cookson.

The UCI said it ‘disagrees’ with USADA’s evidence that it was complicit in Armstrong’s doping. ‘Landis recalled Armstrong saying that “he and Mr. Bruyneel [Armstrong’s fomer team manager] flew to the UCI headquarters and made a financial agreement to keep the positive test hidden”’, reads USADA’s evidence into allegations that a suspicious test for Erythropoietin(EPO) at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland was covered up. USADA’s evidence links this with UCI President Pat McQuaid’s acknowledgement that during 2002, Armstrong and Bruyneel visited UCI headquarters and offered ‘at least $100,000’ for the development of cycling. The UCI said it will continue to accept such donations from riders.

“Since it is obvious after reading USADA’s reasoned decision that systemic doping in pro cycling could not have existed without the UCI being complicit, the UCI’s choice to not appeal USADA’s decision seems self-serving”, said Paul Greene, an Attorney with Terry Garmey & Associates. “Perhaps cycling can now re-emerge as a cleaner and safer sport. But a full investigation into how much the UCI knew and how the UCI looked the other way seems warranted and necessary before cycling can move on.”

USADA also accused the UCI of refusing to cooperate with its attempts to amass evidence against Armstrong. ‘UCI has refused to provide USADA laboratory data without Mr. Armstrong’s consent, which he has refused to give’, read its evidence in relation to retests USADA carried out of samples collected during the 2009 and 2010 Tour de France, which allegedly showed low levels of reticulocytes within the blood, which can indicate the use of blood transfusions.

The UCI confirmed that it would also recognise USADA’s six-month bans imposed on 11 riders who gave evidence that helped to convict Armstrong. However, questions have also been raised about who else surrounding Armstrong knew about his doping. ‘There are many things that I am not free to discuss because I am constrained by legal principles like marital privilege, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements’, wrote Armstrong’s ex-wife Kristin Armstrong in an October 18 article for Runners World.

Armstrong may also be forced to pay back money earned during his career. “The UCI rules are clear”, Tour de France Race Director Christian Prudhomme told the BBC. “When a rider is disqualified, he must pay the prize money back”. Texas-based SCA Promotions - which Armstrong won a 2006 legal settlement against when it withheld money after doping allegations surfaced – is also seeking to recover money. ‘Mr. Armstrong is no longer the official winner of any Tour de France races and as a result, it is inappropriate and improper for him to retain any bonus payments made by SCA’, read a statement from the company’s lawyer, Jeffrey Dorough.

Armstrong may find it difficult to pay the money back. Sponsors including Nike, Oakley, Trek bicycles, Giro helmets, 24-Hour Fitness, Anheuser-Busch, Radio Shack and SRAM bicycle parts have ended their agreements with him.

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