Cookson tells cycling world to prepare for ‘uncomfortable’ CIRC doping report

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Speaking in advance of the release of the long awaited, year long investigation into Lance Armstrong, the US Postal Service, past doping and the UCI’s actions around that time, Brian Cookson has cautioned everyone involved in cycling to brace themselves for what is coming.

The UCI president was referring to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) inquiry, which was funding by the UCI but said to be fully independent.

“When you open a can of worms you find a lot of worms,” Cookson told the Guardian at the world track cycling championships in Paris. “I think it’s going to be very interesting – there will be a lot of uncomfortable things there.

“I think there will be a lot of uncomfortable reading in it and we should all prepare ourselves for that. That was always going to be part of what was going to happen.”

However Cookson said a certain amount of what will be confirmed will be as expected. “I don’t think there will be a lot of new revelations, because mostly we have a good idea of what was happening and how widespread the problems were,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any other sport has opened itself up to this level of scrutiny. It’s something I committed to and I’m proud we’ve done. It will be uncomfortable but it will be a good lesson that other sports can learn from as well.”

Cookson became UCI president in September 2013, almost a year after the US Anti Doping Agency revealed the extent of the doping by Lance Armstrong and others. Pat McQuaid was in charge of the UCI at the time of that USADA reasoned decision.

Both he and previous president Hein Verbruggen were accused by some of either helping Armstrong or of not doing enough to uncover his doping, and this is one area that CIRC has been looking into.

One of the things the commission will likely announce is whether or not the claims against McQuaid and Verbruggen have any truth in them.

Speaking separately to PA, Cookson said he was unsure of their status in relation to the inquiry.

“Whether either of them have spoken to CIRC, I don’t know,” he said.

He held back from commenting on either, although he gave one short reaction to McQuaid’s recent labelling of Armstrong as a scapegoat, almost two and a half years after he had said that the American “had no place in cycling.”

“I think it was oddly contradictory, but I’m not going to say any more about Pat,” he said.

McQuaid had previously been asked by PA if he had given evidence, but declined to answer.

Meanwhile Cookson said he was not too worried about Lance Armstrong’s recent criticism of him. “He’s entitled to his opinion,” he said.

“I know that Lance has talked to the commission because his lawyers announced it and he himself said it.

“Lance Armstrong always has an agenda and I don’t want to say any more until we see what he’s said to the commission.”

Cookson said that the only others he knew had spoken to the commission were ‘one or two individuals’ who he said had personally confirmed to him that they had.

He said that one of those was Dr. Mario Zorzoli, the scientific advisor and UCI doctor, who had allegations made against him in relation to the anti-doping investigation into Dr Geert Leinders.

The latter was handed a lifetime ban recently in relation to his doping of the Rabobank team.

The UCI previously said it was looking into the allegations relating to Zorzoli.

“Mario has given evidence to CIRC,” Cookson confirmed. “We have conducted an internal inquiry into the allegations and passed that information to the CIRC as well.”

He said that while the doctor was still currently employed by the UCI, that he was not currently working in the UCI office and was also not currently involved in any anti-doping work.”

The CIRC is headed by three members, namely Swiss politician Dick Marty, anti doping specialist Ulrich Haas and former Australian military officer Peter Nicholson. The trio have extensive experience and their evaluation of cycling’s past is eagerly awaited.

Cookson told the Guardian that he hopes the CIRC will give guidance on what it considers who is a “fit and proper person” to be involved in running a professional cycling team.

“If you look, many teams employ riders or directeurs sportifs who have had association [with dopers] or a direct [doping] sanction. I do have sympathy for those who say, ‘I’ve done my time, I should have a degree of redemption,’” he said.

“What’s different is the degree of plausibiilty of those apologies and genuine feelings of contrition. What I’d like to get out of the CIRC is more guidance about a fit and proper person test [and] if we need to add conditions in the licencing process.”

Finally, Cookson pledged that there would be no FIFA-style withholding of the findings.

“We will publish the report that is given to us by CIRC,” he pledged.

“We’re not going to get into a FIFA-type situation of arguing about the report.

“If they want to redact anything, they can redact it. They may well give us some unredacted information as well, but the report that they give us will be the report that they say is able to go into the public domain.”

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