Doping body to go easy on riders who tell all

THE Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority believes more riders who might have been involved in – or know of – illegal drug use are giving serious thought to confessing or providing information for the agency’s investigation into cycling.

To encourage them to step forward, ASADA says it will offer ”substantial assistance”, should their evidence show they have breached the anti-doping laws.

”It has been presented to us that there are people thinking about coming forward,” the ASADA chief executive, Aurora Andruska, told Fairfax Media. ”What we are keen to do is to encourage them to come and talk to us.

”The message we are trying to give is: ‘Come and tell us what your involvement is before someone is telling us about you.”’

ASADA, which has called for anyone who has any information to contact it, began its investigation into doping in Australian cycling last month.

It was launched after the United States Anti-Doping Agency released the findings of its investigation into Lance Armstrong and five former associates.

Named in that evidence was former Australian professional rider Matt White. A day later, White admitted to doping, from 2001 to 2003, as a US Postal teammate of Armstrong, who has been banned for life and stripped of all his results since August, 1998 – including seven Tour de France titles.

White was subsequently axed as Cycling Australia’s national men’s road team coach and head sport director of the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team.

Soon after, Australian cycling was thrown into more turmoil when another former Australian professional rider, Stephen Hodge, resigned as Cycling Australia vice-president on the eve of White’s sacking at CA. Hodge admitted to doping in the last six years of his career when on the ONCE and Festina teams.

CA has appointed retired NSW Supreme Court chief judge James Wood to review its governance, practices and anti-doping policies. And Orica-GreenEDGE has requested top anti-doping consultant Nicki Vance to review the team’s procedures, riders and staff.

The ASADA investigation will determine whether there have been any potential anti-doping breaches by Australians in light of evidence in the USADA report.

Andruska said she would like the ASADA investigation to be ”wrapped up quickly”. However, she added: ”The reality is that there will be people that will talk to us, others will mention their names to us, then we will be trying to approach them to see if they will be prepared to come and talk.”

Andruska said anyone who broke doping rules but gave evidence could receive reduced bans, as did those who testified against Armstrong. ”If people do give us information – and they are actively cycling and a sanction could potentially apply to them if they give us information – that can lead to what they call ‘substantial assistance’,” Andruska said.

”That is what happened in the outcome of the work by USADA, where sanctions that normally would have been two years were reduced to six months. We are going to be looking very favourably to that kind of approach, as well.”

However, Andruska said there would be no amnesty – anyone guilty of a breach would not escape punishment.

She said the inquiry’s aim was to learn how involved Australian riders became in doping and to stop up-and-coming riders from doing the same.

”People would really like to know there has been a thorough investigation and that we have got to the heart of what has been going on, particularly around Australian cyclists.

”That young people have been put in a position to dope, or not be part of the team … I never want to see any young Australian ever be put in that position. I want to see that they compete on their talent and the work they put into it, and do it without thinking that the only way to do it is to dope.”

Twitter – @rupertguinness

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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