17 January 2013

WADA response to UCI press release on Independent Commission

Statement from WADA President John Fahey:

WADA is compelled to respond to a number of misleading statements in the UCI press release of January 16, 2013.

It is first necessary to point out that it was the UCI which in December 2012 set up a so-called Independent Commission to inquire into allegations and statements made in the USADA decision on Lance Armstrong concerning the complicity of the UCI and its officials in doping, and generally the manner in which the UCI has conducted its anti-doping program.

The UCI set up its Independent Commission without any consultation with WADA, or USADA, settled the Commission’s terms of reference, and fixed the timetable for the Commission to report.

After careful review of the terms of reference and the Commission’s proposed work program, WADA reached the conclusion that the UCI was not allowing the Commission to conduct a proper and independent investigation.

Therefore, WADA has decided not to take part and invest its limited resources into such a questionable and useless exercise. Having announced that on Tuesday WADA was surprised to see the UCI reaction and attacks on WADA. It has again become apparent that rather than deal with the obvious problems that exist within the sport of cycling, the UCI once again would like to avoid its responsibilities and instead seek to blame WADA and others.

This is not the first time that the UCI has acted in this way. In 2005 when an opportunity arose to address an allegation of doping by Armstrong, the UCI commissioned a so-called independent report – the Vrijman Report - which totally failed to address the substance of the allegations against Armstrong.

The shortcomings of the Vrijman Report were obvious at the time (click here to see WADA's official response to the Vrijman Report), and more so today. This new Commission had a chance not to repeat that mistake but regrettably is not being permitted to do so.

The Independent Commission itself acknowledges the need for the UCI to agree to some form of truth and reconciliation in order for the Commission to properly carry out its work. This alone will incentivize witnesses to appear without fear of the zero tolerance approach clearly indicated by the UCI to any person acknowledging doping. The UCI is in effect stopping any individual from freely giving evidence through fear of providing the truth, and thereby losing a job, a contract or any future in the sport. The UCI should regret that.

It is not WADA that initially proposed an amnesty but USADA. USADA, on request from the Independent Commission, drafted a protocol on how this could be achieved. This was submitted by the Independent Commission to the UCI and subsequently rejected by the UCI. WADA was never approached by the UCI to discuss how it could be achieved and only recently received a letter from the UCI counsel indicating that the UCI would not consider it for this Commission, and would only consider taking part in such a process if it was to involve all endurance sport.

In the same letter the UCI indicated that it was not changing the timelines of the Independent Commission. This means that any attempt to adopt a form of amnesty as proposed by USADA would be practically impossible.

The timing for the end of April 2013 seems obviously to be dictated by the UCI electoral calendar and not by any willingness to remedy issues which prevail in the sport of cycling.

WADA has always been ready and available to discuss any program. WADA is on record stating this as far back as October 2012. No approach has been made by the UCI to WADA either in the aftermath of the USADA decision, in the establishment of the Commission, nor having heard of the USADA proposal. Now WADA reads of an approach - which never actually happened - through the UCI press release.

Had the UCI approached WADA to discuss such an amnesty then it would have been advised that such a process would be possible to implement with the approval of WADA’s Foundation Board. The President of the UCI was present in his capacity as a then member of the WADA Foundation Board at its meeting in November 2012 and did not raise the issue.

It has become typical of the UCI to point fingers at others when yet another doping controversy hits the sport of cycling. WADA has recognized for some years the limits of science, but science is not the only element in an effective anti-doping program. The way controls are undertaken by the responsible anti-doping organization (in this situation the UCI), the alleged insider information provided in this sport to the cyclists, the suggestion of warnings being given to cyclists before the testers arrive, and many other matters raised by the USADA report, and by others, can clearly reduce the effectiveness of a testing program and lead to negative test results.

There is no question that the system put into place by Armstrong and others was sophisticated, but the USADA decision raises many other questions that remain unanswered. For the UCI to say it knew nothing about the systemic doping in its sport and could do nothing more is precisely what the Independent Commission should be inquiring into, provided all the evidence is made available to it. WADA has no confidence that this will occur.

By suggesting a wider truth and reconciliation process, the UCI is again attempting to deflect attention from its own responsibilities, which are for those of cycling.

WADA has already announced that it will not be taking part in the Independent Commission, and the UCI’s failure to address the concerns raised by WADA and other invited parties is further proof of the Commission’s lack of independence and limited terms of reference.