10th March 2015

CIRC report: WADA to investigate & assist, Cookson calls on Verbruggen to stand down

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has pledged to assist the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in reforming, following the recommendations made by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) yesterday. It also said that it would support the UCI in investigating some of the ‘serious allegations’ made in the report. UCI President Brian Cookson (pictured) also told journalists that he would write to Hein Verbruggen, asking him to consider his position as honorary UCI President.

In a statement issued yesterday, WADA said that it would:
• Examine the UCI’s past failures to apply Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) effectively;
• Address the need to enhance the process for allocating research funds; details of the WADA Special Research Fund will be announced in the coming days;
• Continue to advance the new investigative powers permitted by the revised World Anti-Doping Code (as evidenced through the Independent Commission’s investigation into allegations of doping) and also work with the UCI to advance their own information gathering techniques;
• Continue the implementation of a new Compliance process which includes a newly-appointed independent Compliance Review Committee to ensure efficient and effective anti-doping programs from all Code signatories.
• WADA also said that it would work closely with the UCI in addressing allegations made in the CIRC report that some riders paid an ‘anti-doping tax’. This involved riders making payments to officials in order to avoid testing and/or analysis. ‘WADA is certain that the UCI will address these matters as soon as practicable; and, we will work closely and cooperatively with the UCI to implement the necessary changes’, read WADA’s statement.

The CIRC report said that under Hein Verbruggen’s leadership (1991-2005), the UCI had placed prioritised growing cycling as a sport over tackling doping. It said that UCI leadership had defended ‘stars’ such as Lance Armstrong in order to achieve this aim, ignoring allegations that he had doped and defending him against them.

“I am very concerned about what I read in the report about Hein’s actions and I will write to him asking him to consider his position as honorary President”, Cookson yesterday told journalists at UCI headquarters in Switzerland. Verbruggen defended himself by saying that the report had cleared him of any wrongdoing.

“I have studied the CIRC report and I am satisfied that it confirms what I have always said: that there have never been any cover-ups, complicity or corruption in the Lance Armstrong case (or, indeed, in any other doping cases), nor did Armstrong make any payments relating to the Vrijman Report”, he said in a statement. The Vrijman report was commissioned in 2005 to investigate allegations that Armstrong had used erythropoietin (EPO) in the 1999 Tour de France. “I am pleased that this report confirms my complete innocence concerning these accusations which have ben levelled at me in the past”.

Verbruggen also said that it was unfair for the report to call the anti-doping policies put in place in 1991 as inadequate. “I took over the UCI Presidency in November 1991, when the UCI was virtually non-existent and had no financial means whatsoever”, read his statement. “This meant the whole federation had to be started from scratch, including its anti-doping activities. As a result, the necessary professionalisation of the UCI’s anti-doping work could only be started as of 1992 – and we had to work with the technology that existed at the time.”

Verbruggen also highlighted the concerns of Dick Marty, President of the CIRC, outlined on pages 189-191 of the report. Marty highlighted that the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory had only agreed to WADA’s request for it to retest samples from the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France for EPO on the condition that the results would not be used to sanction riders. He also highlighted that the identification of Armstrong was only possible ‘following a breach of medical confidentiality (or at least professional confidentiality)’. He said it was ‘significant’ that the leaks from the laboratory only identified Armstrong.

‘This affair attracted a huge amount of publicity – yet it was known, or should have been known, from the very start, that no sanctions could arise (as it lay outside any anti-doping procedure)’, states Marty’s statement within the CIRC report. ‘The affair gave rise to genuine feelings of unease…’ Verbruggen said that his concern was why the other two members of the CIRC didn’t join President Marty in signing off on this aspect of the report.

Verbruggen was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from 1996 to 2008, when he resigned and was made an honorary IOC member. He was also President of the Evaluation Commission for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The IOC said yesterday that it would see what steps are taken before deciding on any action. “This is a frank and open report that supports the IOC goal to protect the clean athletes”, said Dr. Ugur Erdener, Chair of the IOC Medical Commission. “We welcome the UCI’s commitment to tackling past abuses and putting in place future processes. The next steps are first of all a matter for the UCI and we trust that they will keep us fully  informed.”

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