UCI sets up 3-man panel to investigate doping past (AP)

A three-man independent panel will investigate cycling’s past, including allegations the sport’s governing body colluded with Lance Armstrong.

President Brian Cookson said Wednesday the commission will investigate allegations “that the has been involved in wrongdoing in the past – allegations which have done so much to hurt the credibility of the and our sport.”

The probe is expected to center on the ’s handling of in the late 1990s and early 2000s, especially its links with Armstrong. Much could hinge on whether Armstrong and former presidents Hein Verbrugggen and Pat McQuaid agree to testify.

The and Verbruggen have been accused of protecting Armstrong and helping cover up his . The American was stripped of his seven Tour de titles and banned from Olympic sports for life after admitting to .

The investigative panel will be based in Lausanne, , and will be called the Cycling Independent Reform Commission. Cookson said he wants the investigation completed this year.

The commission will be chaired by Dick Marty, a Swiss politician and former Swiss state prosecutor. The other members are German anti- expert Ulrich Haas and Peter Nicholson, a former Australian military officer and war crimes investigator.

“Their work will also be focused on understanding what went so wrong in our sport and they will make recommendations for change so that as far as possible those mistakes are not repeated,” Cookson said in a statement.

In an interview published by ’s Daily Mail in November, Armstrong said Verbruggen helped him cover up at the 1999 Tour de . Verbruggen dismissed it as a “ridiculous story.”

Armstrong said Verbruggen insisted “we’ve got to come up with something” to explain his positive tests for a banned corticosteroid. The accepted Armstrong’s backdated prescription for a cream to treat saddle sores, allowing him to stay in the race. He went on to win the first of his seven Tours.

The panel is also expected to investigate whether $125,000 donated by Armstrong was paid to cover up suspicious tests.

Creation of the panel was one of the main campaign pledges of Cookson, a Briton who unseated Ireland’s McQuaid in the presidential election in October.

Cookson said the panel will have complete access to files and electronic data that was seized by investigators within minutes of his election.

The panel will seek testimony from current and past riders and officials. The is working with the World Anti- Agency on what type of incentives to offer witnesses in exchange for their cooperation.

Cookson has said Armstrong would be among those invited to testify before the panel, as well as Verbruggen and McQuaid.

Armstrong has said he would cooperate with any international commission on cycling’s past. He is seeking a reduction in his life ban.

Armstrong has so far refused to provide sworn testimony to the . It was USADA’s detailed rrt in 2012 of drug use by Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team that led to him being stripped of the Tour championships he won from 1999 to 2005.

USADA has said the only chance to lessen the penalty is to answer questions under oath.

He tweeted that “I can also confirm that neither myself nor anyone on my team has been contacted by the or the independent commission.”

Cookson said the will cover the full budget of the commission, which will operate “completely independently of the ” and receive no instructions from the body.

Haas, a German professor of law at the University of Zurich, is an experienced judge at the who has been involved in prominent cycling cases.

Haas was the chosen arbitrator of ’s legal team on the three-man panel which eventually stripped the Spanish rider of his 2010 Tour de victory and banned him for two years. The panel decided that Contador’s positive test for was caused by a contaminated supplement.

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this rrt.

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