By Gregor Brown
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is hitting cycling's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), hard over the independent commission it established in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The two parties exchanged criticisms in press releases, with the anti-doping agency getting the upper hand.
"WADA was surprised to see the UCI reaction and attacks on WADA," said agency president, John Fahey. "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."
Fahey originally sent out a statement two days ago saying that his agency would not take part in the UCI's independent commission. The US equivalent, USADA, agreed.
Both agency's pushed the UCI to allow the commission to go further in its investigation of alleged corruption. The USADA's report into Armstrong's doping released on October 10 also revealed alleged corruption inside the governing body.
In their press releases on Wednesday, the agencies revealed their requests were not met and refused their backing of the commission. WADA proposed immunity or incentive for witnesses. The USADA provided the commission with a draft Truth and Reconciliation proposal.
The commission shortly after released a statement saying it agreed with the agencies, but the very body that established it, the UCI, would not allow such changes. It announced a public procedural hearing to voice its concerns and talk over some points in the Terms of Reference.
"It is of great regret," said the commission in a statement, "that the UCI, WADA and USADA have not been able to reach agreement."
The UCI had enough. From headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, President Pat McQuaid ordered a press release to be sent out.
"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," read a UCI statement.
Many critics have accused of the governing body of sleeping at the wheel.
"USADA has asserted that Lance Armstrong and the USPS team ran the most sophisticated and professionalised doping programme that sport has ever seen," the UCI's statement continued. "... 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."
WADA's Fahey argued many points in the UCI's statement. He said, "WADA is compelled to respond to a number of misleading statements."
Regarding Armstrong, he said, "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."
The UCI's commission, however, continues with doubts. It announced yesterday the hearing date (Tuesday) and location in London.
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