Independent panel to probe International Cycling Union

The International Cycling Union turned Wednesday to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for help in choosing a panel to investigate links, if any, to the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
John Coates suggested three names to head up a probe into the International Cycling Union. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

The International Cycling Union turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday for help in choosing a team to investigate the governing body's links to the Lance Armstrong doping case.

Australian lawyer John Coates, the president of the sports court's board, has suggested names for a three-member inquiry panel that soon will begin work.

"We would like to thank John Coates for his recommendations, which we will follow to the letter," UCI president Pat McQuaid said in a statement.

The inquiry is seen as key for the UCI in trying to restore its damaged credibility following the Armstrong doping scandal. A report and recommendations are due by June 1.

On the panel's agenda will be accusations that cycling's leaders covered up suspicious doping tests given by Armstrong during his 1999-2005 run of Tour de France victories and unethically accepted donations totalling $125,000 US from him.

'Restore confidence in the sport'

The longstanding claims were revived by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report last month that detailed massive doping by Armstrong's teams, but were not directly addressed in a 1,000-page dossier of evidence.

"The purpose of this independent commission is to look into the findings of the USADA report and ultimately to make conclusions and recommendations that will enable the UCI to restore confidence in the sport of cycling and in the UCI as its governing body," said McQuaid, who was elected its president weeks after Armstrong's record seventh victory.

The commission will include a "respected senior lawyer," a forensic accountant and an experienced sports administrator all "independent of cycling," the embattled governing body said.

The UCI said it already has contacted lawyers and sports officials recommended by Coates, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee executive board.

Hein Verbruggen, McQuaid's predecessor, remains honourary president and has been the target of severe criticism for leading the UCI during an era when a culture of doping allowed Armstrong's teams to dominate the sport's greatest event by cheating.

The UCI endorsed USADA's findings last month and stripped Armstrong of all of his race results since August 1998, including the seven Tour titles, and banned him for life. USADA also imposed six-month bans on former Armstrong teammates who co-operated with its investigation.

Last month, the UCI said that its inquiry panel could "find ways to ensure that persons caught for doping were no longer able to take part in the sport, including as part of an entourage.

The UCI stressed on Wednesday that "members of the independent commission alone will decide the final terms of reference of its wide-ranging remit."

Until the panel delivers its findings, the governing body, McQuaid and Verbruggen have suspended their planned defamation case in Switzerland against Irish journalist Paul Kimmage. The former Tour rider wrote in articles based on interviews with USADA witness Floyd Landis that the UCI corruptly protected star riders from scrutiny.

Kimmage has since filed a criminal complaint with a Swiss prosecutor requesting that cycling's leaders are investigated for defamation against him and possible fraud, in allowing Armstrong to earn "significant sums of money" while doped.

A decision on whether prosecutors will take up the complaint is expected this month.

The UCI also pledged on Wednesday to consult cycling stakeholders next year and find ways of increasing the sport's global appeal.

"We must all work together to recover from the damage which the Armstrong affair has undoubtedly done to our sport, the sport we all love and cherish," McQuaid said.