Reviewing the reviews

Al Hinds

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Review instigator Kate Lundy (l), the Australian Minister for Sport. (Getty Images)
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What began with USADA's wide-ranging investigation into Lance Armstrong et al. has spiralled into a myriad of sub-reviews, recriminations, finger-pointing and chest-pumping, but what is ultimately being achieved or will be achieved by all the supposed action in response to the sport's current crisis? Is change really happening or is it an exercise in PR?

Perhaps the bigger question is why for all the reviews that are currently in full swing the organisation that oversaw, and continues to oversee the policing of doping, WADA, is not revising its ways as former WADA medical director Alain Garnier pointed out in a recent interview with French radio station Rfi.

Several national federations, the International Cycling Union (UCI), Governments and teams are all conducting clean-outs, and I'd suggest of those there's a mix of those committed to change, and those doing a bit of window-dressing.

Here are three that have caught my eye.

Australian Sports Commission review into Cycling Australia
Created by Minister for Sport Kate Lundy and in direct response to the damaging double blow that came from Matt White and Stephen Hodge's admissions to doping during their careers, the ASC review has been given plenty of scope to affect change. In QC James Wood, the review also has a strong head and its recommendations will be taken seriously by Lundy, the ASC, ASADA and Cycling Australia when they are handed down.

There is however an element of knee-jerk to the process. Its focus though technically broad, "to develop best practice policies and guidelines that can be adopted across all national sporting organisations and the ASC/AIS" is still centred on Cycling Australia. I get the logic behind that process - to an extent - but its certainly not clear that White, nor Hodge ever influenced an athlete or CA employee while employed at the organisation.

CA has little ability in its charter to conduct an investigation (as it supposedly could've with White), but must follow the lead of the ASADA, which it did. If the ASC is going to point the finger at CA for its apparent failures, it could just as easily look at itself or the ASADA.

Demonising a not entirely blameless CA does take the heat off the ASC. Overall I like the look of this one, but we'll see what transpires.

UCI Independent Commission
The UCI's "Independent Commission" is a very public demonstration from the international governing body that yes, it is doing something. A three member, expert panel completely independent from the sport, is certainly something to be applauded.

According to President Pat McQuaid, the USADA report will "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." That sounds good. This is without doubt the most constructive move the UCI has made in years, but it's come only after significant external pressure. Doing nothing wasn't an option.

What's more, it's concerning that in the initial release by the UCI which named John Coates to name the Independent Commission, it failed to note the Australian is an IOC board member and instead underlined his association with the International Court for Arbitration of Sport (ICAS). Presumably set to be one of the key targets to any sort of overarching review, Hein Verbruggen is also an IOC board member. Coates disputed this criticism to AAP yesterday.

Orica-GreenEDGE's Vance Review
The Nicki Vance led review of Orica-GreenEDGE is yet to come out with its terms of reference or scope, but with Vance the team has an expert with some educated views on the subject of anti-doping policy. The conviction behind the review are far from questionable, Gerry Ryan, the team principal wants to make sure the team has a strong front-foot approach to a clean sport.

As I've opined recently, the question is why such a review didn't take place before the team formed to set in the best possible stead for a situation like the one that did transpire, transpiring. If the review is to only re-assert the team's 'clean values', and as Ryan has said, those are hardline, it's hard to see what an internal review will achieve. What real incentive does a team have to uncover past doping practice within it anyway? A costly process for bad press.

Where is the WADA review?
Perhaps the bigger question is why for all the reviews that are currently in full swing the organisation that oversaw, and continues to oversee the policing of doping, WADA, is not revising its ways as former WADA medical director Alain Garnier pointed out in a recent interview with French radio station Rfi.

"Today we can see all too well that the system isn’t working. If you look back, no major doping affair has been revealed by sport’s anti-doping system. It’s always thepolice, the courts or customs who bring scandals to the surface," he said.

"And, in the case of the Armstrong affair, it was once again a federal agency, independent of the sporting movement, that revealed the affair. The sporting movement should not be trusted with the battle against doping."

Indeed.

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