London – Cycling's world governing body accepted Friday the need for a “truth and reconciliation” hearing following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, in a shift from its previous position.
International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid said after a hearing of an independent commission set up to examine the Armstrong affair that it wanted to work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“We want a truth and reconciliation commission with WADA,” he said, adding: “We cannot do it without them.”
The independent commission meeting in London was forced to suspend its work until January 31 after it emerged the UCI had yet to submit a single document to the hearing.
Commission chairman Philip Otton, a former judge in England's Court of Appeal, said he was, “with considerable reluctance” suspending the hearing in the hope the adjournment would allow all those involved to reach agreement on an amnesty.
Last week WADA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Ä the organisation whose investigations led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles Ä were among those who said they were withdrawing from the hearing because of the lack of an amnesty.
McQuaid, who attended Friday's hearing, said the governing body had taken note of those concerns.
“We have listened carefully to the views of WADA, USADA and cycling stakeholders and have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air so that cycling can move forward.”
The Irishman, UCI chief since 2005, insisted his organisation was not dragging its feet and was determined to root out doping.
“Our procedures are the most innovative and stringent in sport, we were the first federation to introduce a biological passport in 2008 and we want to eradicate doping in cycling.”
McQuaid said: “The foundation board of WADA have to change the WADA code to give an amnesty. Their next meeting is in May Ä they can change that regulation straight away.”
Asked how long the whole process might take, McQuaid replied:
“It's very difficult to know... But I don't want a cloud hanging over the sport for the next year or two years.”
Armstrong indicated last week he would participate in a truth and reconciliation process as he finally admitted to doping in a TV interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey.
And McQuaid said: “We heard Lance Armstrong say he will be one of the first in the door. It's important he discloses a lot more than he disclosed on TV.”
Ian Mill, lawyer for the UCI, told the commission the governing body “had no desire to suppress or conceal the documents” it required.
He added the UCI could not offer an amnesty to cyclists who admitted doping offences as this would breach existing WADA rules.
However, Otton insisted the issues of amnesty and the UCI's own conduct could be separated.
Mill was adamant witnesses could give evidence against the UCI without fear of facing disciplinary action.
“The commission still strongly believes, an amnesty is important for the good of professional cycling generally,” Otton said Friday.
He added: “The commission recognises the immense public interest in determining why and how Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team were able to engage in systematic doping without detection or sanction.” – Sapa-AFP