David Howman Interview: WADA’s director general speaks about Armstrong/USPS investigation
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Sunday, February 05, 2012

David Howman Interview: WADA’s director general speaks about Armstrong/USPS investigation

by Shane Stokes at 2:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
 
“There should be no impediment to evidence being handed over relatively quickly”

David HowmanThe director general of the World Anti Doping Agency David Howman has said that he believes the evidence gathered thus far in the US Postal Service/Lance Armstrong federal investigation will be handed over to the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA), and that all parties concerned should be willing to do so in order to establish the truth.

“There will be a lot of information, a lot of evidence, which has been gathered which can now be turned over to the anti-doping authorities, so that they can look at it all and decide whether any sanction processes should be put in place,” he told VeloNation today.

WADA’s president John Fahey stated yesterday that the fact that the United States is a signatory to both the WADA Code and the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport meant that WADA believed it would be “confident that they will carry out their responsibilities as outlined in these documents.

“That was the case with the investigation into BALCO and WADA looks forward to the same approach happening shortly.”

After the federal case was unexpectedly dropped on Friday, some have suggested that Lance Armstrong’s legal team may seek to have the evidence from the near-two year investigation sealed in order to prevent USADA from being able to study it. Howman’s perspective is that if Armstrong and those involved with the US Postal Service team are indeed innocent, as they insist, then it should be in their interests to cooperate and to clear their names once and for all.

“I think if people try to stop stuff happening, it means that there is something to be hidden,” he said. “In very general terms, that would surprise me. If there is nothing to worry about, then surely everybody would be only too happy that evidence can be passed to people who can properly use it.”

VeloNation put a number of questions to the New Zealander, who spoke about the federal investigation and its closure, the statute of limitations and whether it could apply beyond eight years if people were found guilty, and also the international elements of the case.

VeloNation: The federal investigation into the US Postal Service team and Lance Armstrong was dropped on Friday. What are your thoughts on this?

David Howman: We can’t say a lot really, because we don’t know a lot. What I think I can say is that the US Attorney has total discretion as to whether he is going to proceed with matters of fraud or not and, using that discretion, he has decided not to.

We don’t have any idea about what he has based that decision on, nor do we have any idea about all the evidence that was gathered to allow him to make that decision. So whatever we say is really somewhat naïve because we don’t have that data.

But what we do know is that there will be a lot of information, a lot of evidence, which has been gathered which can now be turned over to the anti-doping authorities, so that they can look at it all and decide whether any sanction processes should be put in place.

VN: The WADA communication of yesterday quoted both the WADA Code and the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport as being reasons why the US Government should hand over the information. Do you think that is a given, or is there any way they could refuse to do so?

DH: Put it this way: this is legally obtained evidence which is no longer legally necessary for any legal cases. So therefore there is no instant impediment; sometimes people say that you have to wait until someone has been charged and they have to go through their trial before that information can be used elsewhere. But that’s not the case now. So there should be no impediment to evidence being handed over relatively quickly.

I can’t say more than that. Obviously I’m not a lawyer practicing in the United States, but the mere simplicity of it all seems to indicate that would be what would happen.

VN: There have been suggestions that Armstrong’s lawyers could try to stop evidence being handed over…

DH: Well, I think if people try to stop stuff happening, it means that there is something to be hidden. In very general terms, that would surprise me. If there is nothing to worry about, then surely everybody would be only too happy that evidence can be passed to people who can properly use it.

VN: Has WADA itself been part of the investigation up to this point?

DH: All we have done is if we have received anything, we have passed it on. If we have been able to facilitate meetings, we have done that. But we haven’t been part of any interviewing or any situation where evidence has been handed over.

VN: A number of riders have apparently already testified. Could they refuse to do so if requested to do so again by USADA and, if so, are they liable to sanction if they don’t cooperate with an investigation?

DH: I think you would have to look at each individual situation before you were able to comment on that. That would be too big a hypothetical for me to get into. But people do give evidence under certain conditions, and I have no idea what has happened in this particular case.

VN: Do you believe that there was a good case there?

DH: Well, I don’t think there was any indication to the contrary, and I think there was quite a deal of surprise that the announcement was made in the way that it was. Beyond that, I don’t have sufficient data to be able to say anything more.

VN: Under the WADA Code there is a statute of limitations of eight years. This week, USADA announced a decision where that was overruled because the athlete had lied during his original testimony. It meant that results were stripped going back as far as 2001.

In this situation, would that eight year statute of limitations apply?

DH: Well, I think that case gives you a very good example on how it can work. It does apply, but the issue is when does it apply from. You have always got that interpretation to go through. It is not as simple as just marking off the calendar and saying ‘we can’t ask anything about January 1 onwards,’ because it is outside that eight year limit. It is not as simple as that. Nor is it in any country where there is any statute of limitations. So again it is one case at a time. In the recent USADA case you referred to, that is an indicator as to how that can work.

VN: Overall, where does WADA stand on the case?

DH: Well, we haven’t really moved our position at all. We are interested in making sure that where evidence is gathered, that it can be used appropriately for anti-doping purposes. That is our job, and we remain interested in what happens.

VN: There is also talk of others being involved, people from Italy and Belgium. Is WADA’s role there also to work with the national federations?

DH: Yes, it is the same. I know that for example that the Italian inquiry hasn’t been competed and until it is, there is also stuff that could happen. So we just have to be patient and wait for conclusions.

VN: When the Landis allegations were printed, there were various non-US individuals mentioned. At the time, the UCI said that it wanted the national federations to conduct investigations into those. That’s over a year and a half ago and there has been no word of that since. Has WADA been informed of any investigations, and did anything ever happen?

DH: No.

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