Tom Degun: A "concerned" Independent Commission does not bode well for the UCI

Friday, 25 January 2013
Tom Degun ITG2Despite the length of time it took, the International Cycling Union (UCI) Independent Commission procedural hearing at The Law Society in London made fascinating viewing for all of us in attendance.

The Commission itself has been formed to investigate the doping scandal surrounding the world governing body for cycling following the Lance Armstrong revelations which came about last August when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) banned the American for taking performance-enhancing drugs and stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles.

The hearing comes after the Commission called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the USADA and Change Cycling Now (CCN) to participate in a truth and reconciliation public hearing, under a full or partial amnesty, but all three declined under the current terms of reference - those terms being that the UCI are controlling the Commission, and blocking moves for amnesty.

On the top table at The Law Society was the three-member Commission itself, featuring chairman Sir Philip Otton, a former British Court of Appeal judge, along with House of Lords Peer and 11-time Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes.
 
The Law Society 2The UCI Independent Commission procedural hearing took place at The Law Society in London

Predominantly in the dock for the UCI was their chief legal aid Ian Mill QC and, noticeably watching on nervously from the front, was under fire UCI President Pat McQuaid.

Throughout the hearing, McQuaid twitched agitatedly as it became clear that relations between the UCI and the Commission had broken down.

"It is blindingly obvious that there is immense public interest in determining why and how Lance Armstrong and his US Postal Service team were able to engage in systematic doping for so long without detection or sanction," said the impressive Sir Philip, who was skillful throughout in getting across his point without the usual, complex legal terminology normally used in such situations.

"We understood that was also a concern of the UCI. But, cards on the table, the UCI's attempts to delay this process are of huge concern."

The entertaining Mill, who is certainly no shrinking violent, hit back emphatically until it got the point where he said the UCI wants to see the Commission suspend their activities.

The main reason for this appears to be money, as the UCI are funding the Commission at what they say is considerable cost.

They want a new Commission - that they suggest WADA should jointly fund - with a wider remit than the current Commission.
 
Lance Armstong 2The Independent Commission acknowledged the immense public interest in determining why and how Lance Armstrong and his US Postal Service team got away with doping

It all ended rather unsatisfyingly with an adjournment.

"The Commission has decided, with considerable reluctance, that the best course is to adjourn this Procedural Hearing until Thursday, 31 January, 2013 which should be sufficient time for the participants to reach an agreement in principle, if not detail," said Sir Philip in his closing statement.

"In the meantime the Commission expects to be informed by UCI of the progress of the Amnesty discussion. The Commission came to the view that some form of witness amnesty was desirable to enable the Commission to gather comprehensive evidence for this Inquiry.  The Commission also believed, and still strongly believes, that an amnesty is important for the good of professional cycling generally."

With that the Commission retired and in a surprise move, McQuaid got up for a makeshift press conference.

It is rather fascinating to see just how much the Irishman has relished the fight in the last few weeks and while others may have run from the media, McQuaid stands there and takes it.

He is either brave or foolish, perhaps both.

Unsurprisingly, he issued his stock line that he has "no intention of resigning" as President while he was quick to play down a rift with the Commission.

"There was friction there but I think the Commission understands what cycling needs," he said. "This is an unprecedented situation and we are trying to work through it."

He then faced the broadcast media outside, remaining defiant on the anti-doing policy under his leadership and explaining that he is still the right man to lead the UCI.

DSCF3347Pat McQuaid has remained defiant in front of the media despite continuing pressure for him to quit his role as UCI President

"Since I took over as UCI President in 2005, the UCI has been one of the leading bodies in the fight against doping," he said.

"That will continue."

With that, he disappeared.

We must now seemingly wait for part two next week to see how this one resolves itself.

And then was must wait a fair while longer after that until we learn the ultimate conclusions of the Armstrong doping scandal – and exactly what that means for the UCI and McQuaid.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. Follow him on Twitter.
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