UCI claims WADA Code prevents it from accepting WADA’s request for witness amnesty
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

UCI claims WADA Code prevents it from accepting WADA’s request for witness amnesty

by Shane Stokes at 2:24 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Governing body says it will only accept general Truth and Reconciliation process if all sports agree

UCIQuoting the World Anti Doping Agency’s rules back at it, the UCI has said that it won’t allow the Independent Commission to introduce an amnesty unless WADA can confirm that its own code won’t be violated by it.

The governing body was responding to communications issued yesterday and today by WADA, USADA and Change Cycling Now which were critical of the UCI’s refusal to allow a Truth and Reconciliation process plus a related amnesty for any witnesses given evidence to the commission. Those three bodies said that they would no longer cooperate with the enquiry as a result.

The Independent Commission itself said earlier today that it agreed with their calls for those measures, and that it had written to the UCI urging it to change its position.

Despite the fact that the three bodies plus the commission have all said that they believe witnesses are less likely to come forward due to fear of punishment, the UCI has suggested that it would nevertheless be compelled to push for sanctions against them under the rules.

As a result it says that it is unable to cooperate with WADA in the way requested because of WADA’s own Code.

The announcement will likely further the perception that the UCI is seeking to assert control over the commission’s enquiry, but it justified its current stance in today’s communication.

“WADA had proposed late last year that the UCI agree an amnesty for those coming forward to give evidence before the Commission. UCI has explained to WADA that any amnesty from UCI would have limited effect as the IOC, national anti-doping authorities, sponsors and indeed criminal authorities could, as we have seen in the Lance Armstrong case, pursue actions against athletes admitting to doping.

“Secondly, we have informed WADA of our concern that any amnesty from the UCI would constitute a violation of the WADA Code. Article 20.3.9 of the WADA Code requires an International Federation “to vigorously pursue all potential anti-doping rule violations”. The UCI would be breaching this article if it ignored admissions of doping in evidence given to the Commission.

“Moreover, Article 10.5.3 of the WADA Code only allows a person's sanction to be reduced to “no more than three-quarters of the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility” provided certain criteria are met, including that the person provides information that leads to another person being found to have committed a doping violation.”

The UCI has however said that it will tell the commission at the public hearing to be set up next week that it would accept the request subject to WADA’s response. It said that it would be willing to “provide the necessary assurances to those coming forward with evidence relevant to the Independent Commission’s Terms of Reference provided WADA confirms that such assurances would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the WADA Code, or, if not, it makes the necessary changes to the Code.”

VeloNation has sought clarification from WADA on this point but it has not yet responded.

The UCI also states that any such evidence should be provided within the timetable set by the Commission; a request for clarification from the UCI on this has also not yet met a response thus far.

The original commission timetable set a deadline for witnesses volunteering information of December 31st. However because of the uncertainty over what protection those witnesses would be given, the UCI Independent Commission told VeloNation last week that it had extended the timeframe for people to be able to come forward.

It is not clear which of those two timeframes the UCI is referring to. It has not responded to a request for clarification on this point.

The governing body has also said that the evidence should be solely related to the issues that the commission was established to investigate. “The role of the Commission is not to act as a confessional but rather to investigate the assertions made in USADA’s Reasoned Decision of alleged complicity in the alleged doping of Lance Armstrong and the USPS team,” it states.

Truth and Reconciliation: Only if all other sports do it

As regards a general Truth and Reconciliation process throughout cycling, the UCI is refusing to get involved unless it is introduced across all sports.

Given the enormity of getting all other sports to agree to a complex anti-doping request, plus the considerable delay it took to get them all to accept the WADA Code as it is, the request is one that the governing body must realise is impossible in the short to medium term. And while it asserts that doping affects all sports, cycling is indisputably the sport that is currently under the spotlight due to the scale of the doping exposed under the US Postal Service affair and other investigations.

The UCI is yet to acknowledge any real fault in the fact that Armstrong and his team dominated the sport for so many years while using a variety of doping products. It follows that line today, saying that both WADA and USADA tested Armstrong many times during his career without a positive result.

“We all had access to the same test results – and they too must have formed the view that there was an insufficient basis to pursue a doping violation against Lance Armstrong.”

It added that it took the involvement of another non-sporting body for Armstrong and his team to be able to be caught. “The turning point in USADA’s investigation came only after it was able to collect evidence under penalty of perjury following the federal criminal investigation.”

Given that members of the UCI are accused by some of Armstrong’s former team-mates of helping to shield the rider, pointing the finger at WADA and USADA in such fashion will do little to improve a tense relationship.

Despite that, the UCI concludes by saying that it hopes that WADA and USADA will reverse yesterday’s decision and will participate in the work of the Independent Commission.



The UCI’s full statement is as follows:


UCI’s response to the decision by WADA and USADA to withdraw from the Independent Commission

The UCI joins with the members of the Independent Commission in expressing regret that the World Anti-Doping Agency and the US Anti-Doping Agency have indicated that they will not cooperate with the Independent Commission established to investigate the allegations made against the UCI in the recent USADA reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service (USPS) team.

USADA handed out sanctions, albeit reduced, to all those that admitted to doping while assisting the investigation. In contrast, WADA’s proposal was that anyone who came forward with information would be given a complete amnesty, with no period of ineligibility and no loss of results, and, incredibly, would be given psychological support to be financed by the UCI.

It is disappointing that after UCI’s concerns were raised with WADA, rather than addressing them, they have indicated that they will pull out altogether. That notwithstanding, the UCI confirms that it will be informing the Commission at the hearing next week that it is willing to provide the necessary assurances to those coming forward with evidence relevant to the Independent Commission’s Terms of Reference provided WADA confirms that such assurances would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the WADA Code, or, if not, it makes the necessary changes to the Code.

Further, any such evidence should be submitted within the timetable set by the Independent Commission and relate to the issues that the Commission was established to investigate. In particular, the role of the Commission is not to act as a doping confessional but rather to investigate the assertions made in USADA’s Reasoned Decision of alleged complicity in the alleged doping of Lance Armstrong and the USPS team.

Furthermore, the UCI has informed WADA that it would be willing to participate in a truth and reconciliation process covering all sports, or at least endurance sports, if appropriate changes were made to the WADA Code. The scourge of doping affects all sport, not just cycling. WADA has itself recently announced a task force to address “The ineffectiveness of the fight against doping in sport”.

USADA has asserted that Lance Armstrong and the USPS team ran the most sophisticated and professionalised doping programme that sport has ever seen. Certainly, WADA tested Lance Armstrong many times during his career and failed to find any proof of doping. USADA, too, tested Armstrong many times and similarly failed. We all had access to the same test results – and they too must have formed the view that there was an insufficient basis to pursue a doping violation against Lance Armstrong.

There is no dispute, therefore, that we are talking about doping violations that were difficult, if not impossible, to detect on the basis of the existing science and the limited methods at the disposal of anti-doping authorities. Unlike the national criminal authorities, the UCI does not have the power to carry out searches of the rooms or vehicles of athletes, nor compel riders to give evidence before a Grand Jury under the threat of criminal prosecution for perjury. The turning point in USADA’s investigation came only after it was able to collect evidence under penalty of perjury following the federal criminal investigation.

But if WADA is serious about uncovering the full extent to which modern science and the limited methods of detection available to sporting bodies and anti-doping authorities (including itself) have prevented doping, it should establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The UCI, for one, would be happy to participate in such a process and contribute to its funding.

That would clearly be a lengthy process. In the meantime, it is hoped that WADA and USADA will reconsider their positions and participate in the work of the Independent Commission, including participating in its hearing scheduled for next week.

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