GENEVA – An independent panel will examine possible links between cycling’s governing body and the Lance Armstrong doping case.
The three-member panel will meet in London from April 9-26, with a June 1 deadline to deliver its report.
The group consists of retired British judge Philip Otton, Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes and former Paralympics star Tanni Grey-Thompson.
John Coates, president of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, was key in establishing the panel. The International Cycling Union had no say as to who would serve.
“The appointment of these three eminent figures demonstrates clearly that the UCI wants to get to the bottom of the Lance Armstrong affair and put cycling back on the right track,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said in a statement Friday. “We will listen to and act on the commission’s recommendations.”
Otton’s sports legal cases include a Premier League relegation dispute involve Carlos Tevez, and Chelsea’s tactics in trying to lure Ashley Cole from Arsenal. Grey-Thompson, a 10-time Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair racing, is now a lawmaker in the upper chamber of Britain’s Parliament.
The cycling body said the three will have access to “all relevant documents in the control or possession of the UCI,” including bank and telephone records and laboratory test results.
The announcement came two days before a group of the UCI’s and Armstrong’s fiercest critics, including three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, meets in London to press for changes in how cycling is run.
The UCI asked Coates last month to help create a panel to investigate suspicions raised by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s damning report into widespread doping by Armstrong’s teams during his record seven Tour wins from 1999-2005. Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour de France titles and banned for life.
The panel’s work could be key in determining whether the governing body can rebuild its damaged credibility. The commission will scrutinize McQuaid, who was elected as UCI president weeks after Armstrong first retired in 2005, and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, in their relations with Armstrong.
The governing body denies claims made by former Armstrong teammates to USADA that it covered up suspicious samples from Armstrong in exchange for payments totaling $125,000, or that the American rider enjoyed special protection.
“The commission’s report and recommendations are critical to restoring confidence in the sport of cycling and in the UCI as its governing body,” McQuaid said. “We will cooperate fully with the commission and provide them with whatever they need to conduct their inquiry and we urge all other interested stakeholders to do the same.”
The UCI pledged to fund the commission’s work and will be legally represented at the London hearings. It did not specify if sessions will be public.
McQuaid said the cost of the commission will be a “significant burden” on his organization.
“However, it is clear that only such a decisive and transparent examination of the past will answer our critics by thoroughly examining our assertion that the UCI’s anti-doping procedures are and have been among the most innovative and stringent in sport,” he said.
The panel will examine whether the UCI’s doping rules were “inadequate or were not enforced with sufficient rigor”; if the UCI had “any reliable evidence or information” that Armstrong was doping; and if it “adequately cooperated with, assisted in and reacted to the USADA” investigation.
A potential conflict of interest between the UCI’s role promoting the sport and its duty to police doping also will be examined.
Following the USADA report, LeMond denounced McQuaid and Verbruggen as “the corrupt part of the sport” and called on them to leave the UCI.
LeMond, now the only American winner of cycling’s biggest prize, will be joined in London by journalists Paul Kimmage and David Walsh and Australian anti-doping scientist Michael Ashenden, who helped the UCI develop its biological passport anti-doping project.
Under the “Change Cycling Now” banner, the group will meet over two days.