Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The "Official Statement from WADA on the Vrijman Report": Unintentional Proof to the Contrary?

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The "Official Statement from WADA on the Vrijman Report": Unintentional Proof to the Contrary?

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

1.1 It is surely nothing less than remarkable that there has, to date particularly in view of the media attention which the matter of the alleged use by American cyclist Lance Armstrong of prohibited substances itself received at the time--been little or no substantive response to, let alone criticism of, the findings of what has become known as the "independent investigation of all facts and circumstances regarding the analyses of the urine samples of the 1999 Tour de France conducted by the French WADA-accredited laboratory, the 'Laboratoire Nationale de Depistage du Dopage' (hereinafter: the 'LNDD') in Chatenay--Malabry, France", as reported in "the Vrijman report" (1). In spite of the very strong criticism expressed in this report regarding (the quality of) the research it conducted and its subsequent behaviour in this matter, the LNDD has, to this day, not responded to any of the findings of the investigation, while the French newspaper 'L'Equipe'--responsible for publishing the relevant article in which Lance Armstrong was accused of using the prohibited substance "recombinant erythropoetin" ("r-EPO") during the 1999 Tour de France (2)--merely stated in an editorial that it continued to support fully the findings of its own investigation.

"There is nothing to retract from the revelations. [...]. For our part, we remain convinced of the need to battle without compromise against mafialike tendencies that still and always threaten the sport of cycling. Both in the method and the substance, L'Equipe stands firm." (3)

1.2 Procedural aspects

Where there has been criticism in respect of the investigation that has been conducted, it usually related to the procedural aspects of that investigation. The premature publication of the most important findings of the investigation in the Netherlands newspaper "de Volkskrant" on May 31, 2006, in particular appears to have been the cause of this (4). For some, also my reputation as being pro-athlete--earned because of the role I allegedly played according to some in the doping affair involving the German athletes Katrin Krabbe, Grit Breuer and Silke Moller--as well as my being acquainted with Mr. Hein Verbruggen, the current Vice-President of the "Union Cycliste Internationale" ("UCI"), the International Cycling Federation, did already provide sufficient reason to criticise (the results of) the investigation that had been conducted, in particular as far as its "independence" and "impartiality" were concerned (5).

1.3 WADA's response

Apart from Lance Armstrong (6) and the UCI (7), the only other party directly involved in this matter that did respond to (the substance of) the findings contained in the "Vrijman report" has been the "World Anti--Doping Agency" ("WADA").

In its initial response on May 31, 2006, WADA carefully re-iterated its position that, as far as this investigation was concerned,:

"an investigation into the matter must consider all aspects--not limited to how the damaging information regarding the athletes' urine samples became public, but also addressing the question whether anti-doping rules were violated by athletes" (8) and that:

"WADA will respond in due course once it has fully examined the report" (9).

However, on 2 June 2006, barely two days later and almost three weeks before the results of WADA's examination of the Vrijman report were published, WADA Presient Richard Pound, already concluded in an interview with the press agency "Agence France--Presse" ("AFP") that the investigation report was full of holes. "They put as facts things that are suppositions, suspicions and possibilities", said Pound (10). He also announced that WADA rejected the "Vrijman report" and "will consider legal action against Vrijman and any organizations including the UCI, that may publicly adopt its conclusions" (11). On 19 June 2006, WADA eventually published its so-called "Official Statement From WADA On The Vrijman Report" (hereinafter: "the Statement"), "highlighting a number of unprofessional, inaccurate, unfair and misleading elements of the [Vrijman] report" (12). …

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