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Possible immunity for cyclists, but not Armstrong

November 14, 2013

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Cyclists could be offered immunity to testify in the planned inquiry into the sport’s drug-stained past — but it won’t apply to Lance Armstrong, the World Anti-Doping Agency said on Thursday.

A revision of the world anti-doping code, which is set to be voted on and adopted by WADA on the last day of its summit in South Africa on Friday, may contain a new provision for current cyclists to testify under the incentive of no ban in return for what they know about doping, WADA President John Fahey said.

It will work on a “case by case” basis, Fahey said, and apply only to riders currently competing and therefore not Armstrong.

“What is concluded is concluded,” he said of Armstrong, who was banned for life in 2012 and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for serial doping.

Speculation has grown over the last week that the disgraced American cyclist may seek a reduction in his life ban from organized sport in return for cooperating in an International Cycling Union investigation into doping. While a reduced ban remains a possibility, he won’t have his sanction completely removed or have the relatively short bans of other riders, WADA and UCI President Brian Cookson have said.

Fahey also explained a legal principle that meant the code’s possible new clause allowing testimony in return for no sanction could be applied to the cycling inquiry, planned for next year, even though the code won’t come into effect until Jan. 1, 2015.

It follows comments from Cookson that there should be “incentives” for some people to testify in the commission, which will go ahead after an agreement between the UCI and WADA and following a private meeting between Cookson and Fahey at this week’s World Conference on Doping in Sport.

Providing little details of the inquiry and its remit, WADA and the cycling governing body said in a joint statement that they have agreed on “the broad terms under which the UCI will conduct a commission of inquiry into the historical doping problems in cycling.”

“They (Cookson and Fahey) further agreed that their respective colleagues would cooperate to finalize the detailed terms and conditions of the inquiry to ensure that the procedures and ultimate outcomes would be in line with the fundamental rules and principles of the world anti-doping code.”

That agreement saw WADA make progress in one of the key behind-the-scenes discussions at its conference, although revelations of problems with the doping laboratory in Russia, three months ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, have given WADA another burning issue.

WADA has set up a disciplinary committee to investigate issues with its accredited Moscow lab, Fahey told the AP, and a report was expected “in the not too distant future.”

WADA has already revoked the accreditation of the Brazilian laboratory that was meant to test samples at next year’s World Cup, giving the two major sports events next year problems with their drug testing facilities.

“There is a matter that is being looked at at the present time with respect of the Russian laboratory,” Fahey said, declining to give further details on the exact nature of the problems.

WADA regularly checks that its labs are working properly by sending them “blind samples,” samples meant as tests to ensure the lab is giving correct findings, and not false positives or false negatives. Any incorrect findings would raise concerns.

The Moscow lab is set to provide the facilities for a temporary testing base in Sochi for the Feb 7-23 Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile, concerns over Jamaica and Kenya are also still on the WADA agenda at its four-day meeting, and its board will examine an audit of Jamaica’s drug-testing program on Friday.

The report hasn’t been made public, but WADA appears content that Jamaica’s government and the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission will make the required improvements to its testing program, which broke down completely in the buildup to last year’s London Olympics.

WADA also says it welcomes long-awaited moves this week by the Kenyan government to set up an investigation into allegations of widespread doping in the East African country’s high-altitude training bases. Kenyan authorities promised an investigation over a year ago.

In its main business in Johannesburg, WADA will vote on proposed changes to its code on the last day and elect a new leader. A move to increase bans for serious dopers from two years to four has widespread backing and is expected to be approved, while IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain is the only candidate to succeed Fahey as WADA president.

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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