CON­FES­SION TIME

It’s a call for ev­ery­one to come clean for the good of the sport. But will any­one bother?

Procycling - - Prologue -

On the face of it, what rid­ers, coaches or team sup­port staff can achieve by com­ing for­ward is no dif­fer­ent to what they could achieve pre­vi­ously by talk­ing to ei­ther the UCI or WADA. As be­fore, will­ing par­tic­i­pants can still re­ceive re­duced bans for pro­vid­ing valu­able in­for­ma­tion. So why would any­one choose to speak up now?

The Terms of Ref­er­ence un­der which CIRC op­er­ates re­veal a more for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment for dis­clo­sure. Con­fi­den­tial hear­ings will be ap­peal­ing, en­cour­ag­ing in­no­cent people with in­for­ma­tion to come for­ward. Also, wit­ness state­ments from those giv­ing “valu­able in­for­ma­tion” on dop­ing prac­tices can be made anony­mously. It’s only when some­one ac­cepts re­duced sanc­tions for dop­ing vi­o­la­tions that this con­fi­den­tial­ity won’t ap­ply. In un­de­fined “ex­cep­tional” cir­cum­stances, the vi­o­la­tion won’t be pub­licly dis­closed at all, and there’s also the im­por­tant is­sue that prize money will not have to be re­turned in any sce­nario.

Yet even with Cook­son’s warn­ing that “now is the time to talk be­fore some­one else tells the truth about your ac­tiv­i­ties”, it will take a lot for rid­ers to trash their own rep­u­ta­tions. The USADA ad­mis­sions by Chris­tian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie saw their ca­reers end un­der dark clouds, so it’s hardly tempt­ing for oth­ers to fol­low. For many, it might be a case of keep­ing quiet and hop­ing that oth­ers in the know will do the same. There’s also the fact that the CIRC isn’t above na­tional laws, giv­ing lit­tle in­cen­tive to re­veal law-break­ing as­pects from the past.

We can only wish the well in­ten­tioned CIRC suc­cess. At the very least, it should ease the UCI’s pariah sta­tus in world sport. As Cook­son says, “per­haps other sports can learn from our ex­pe­ri­ences, be­cause this cer­tainly isn’t a prob­lem that’s re­stricted to cy­cling.” Rea­soned De­ci­sion, far­ci­cally col­lapsed in Jan­uary 2013.

Run­ning for the next year with the pos­si­bil­ity of a four-month ex­ten­sion, the com­mis­sion, funded by the UCI to the tune of 3m Swiss Francs, will be chaired by Dick Marty, a se­nior Swiss politi­cian and for­mer state pros­e­cu­tor. He is joined by Ger­man Ul­rich Haas, a specialist in anti-dop­ing pro­ce­dure, and Aus­tralian Peter Ni­chol­son, who spe­cialises in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Ni­chol­son will be the only full-time com­mis­sion mem­ber, op­er­at­ing from its

“WE WANT TO TRY AND LEARN LESSONS FOR THE FU­TURE SO THAT WE DON’T MAKE THE SAME MIS­TAKES AGAIN”

Lau­sanne of­fice, a half-hour’s drive from the UCI’s Aigle HQ. Cook­son was at pains to em­pha­sis its in­de­pen­dency, in­sist­ing he will only be given up­dates on progress “ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery month”. The fact that the UCI is fund­ing it is not proof of its par­tial­ity to the gov­ern­ing body, says Cook­son, stat­ing, “If the UCI didn’t fund it, no­body else would.”

In a press con­fer­ence un­veil­ing the com­mis­sion, Cook­son and the CIRC were keen to paint it as a pos­i­tive tool for change rather than a means of pick­ing over 15 years of the sport’s trans­gres­sions. “We want to try and learn lessons for the fu­ture so that we don’t make the same mis­takes again,” he said, with Marty adding that cy­cling had a “unique op­por­tu­nity to… re­gain trust”. Cook­son also thanked WADA for work­ing to cre­ate a mu­tu­ally agreed can­vas for the com­mis­sion to op­er­ate un­der. It’s a very dif­fer­ent sce­nario to the pre­vi­ous failed com­mis­sion, es­tab­lished on Pat McQuaid’s watch with­out con­sul­ta­tion from WADA, who held con­cerns that it was not truly in­de­pen­dent of the UCI.

The CIRC’s chief aims are to “dis­cover the main providers and fa­cil­i­ta­tors of dop­ing” be­tween 1998 and 2013 and an “in­ves­ti­ga­tion into UCI past wrong­do­ings”. The em­pha­sis “is not to pun­ish anti-dop­ing of­fences by sin­gle rid­ers, but to iden­tify and tackle the prac­tices… that have fa­cil­i­tated dop­ing”. It will pro­duce a re­port with “tar­geted rec­om­men­da­tions” for cy­cling’s fu­ture at the end of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pe­riod.

Strength­ened by pow­ers handed down by the UCI and WADA, the CIRC can hand out re­duced bans on a case-by-case ba­sis, “an ex­tra­or­di­nary tool,” said Marty, “set-up be­cause of an ex­tra­or­di­nary pe­riod”. Bans, which can be given through­out the year of the CIRC’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, range from six months for the use of pro­hib­i­tive sub­stances to three years for mal­prac­tice by med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers. There are some re­stric­tions, how­ever; only cur­rent UCI li­cence hold­ers can re­ceive bans and if it de­cides to give no sanc­tion, this must be agreed by both the UCI and WADA. While ban de­tails can be made pub­lic if a li­cence holder ac­cepts re­duced sanc­tions, the fact that hear­ings will be strictly con­fi­den­tial may en­cour­age people to come for­ward. Cook­son urged any­one with in­for­ma­tion to share their sto­ries. “If you re­ally care about our sport, if you want to make this bet­ter and to help re­store the dam­age that has been done to our sport, then please come for­ward now. This is a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity. These re­duced sanc­tions will not be in­def­i­nite and the risk is that some­one could give in­for­ma­tion about them. If any­one has any­thing to hide, now is the time to come out, be­fore some­one else tells the truth about your ac­tiv­i­ties.”

There’s also hope for those al­ready banned. That may in­ter­est Lance Arm­strong, whose des­per­a­tion to be a com­pet­i­tive ath­lete re­mains. Any ban re­duc­tion, how­ever, de­pends on how much cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion is shared and could only be ac­tioned by the rel­e­vant anti-dop­ing au­thor­i­ties.

Arm­strong, Vino, Lan­dis, Ras­mussen, Ull­rich and Basso; a mot­ley crew the CIRC could only ben­e­fit from speak­ing to

Swiss politi­cian Dick Marty forms part of a CIRC tri­umvi­rate that looks to have more chops than the pre­vi­ous com­mis­sion

The CIRC wants to hear from all in­di­vid­u­als from the last 15 years, whether they’re re­tired like Ge­orge Hin­capie or banned like Alessan­dro Bal­lan

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