Armstrong panel off to rough start

The first public hearing into the Lance Armstrong doping scandal descended into sharp exchanges Friday over the lack of disclosure of documents by the sport’s governing body.

An independent panel was set up by the UCI to investigate accusations that its leaders covered up suspicious doping tests given by Armstrong during his 1999-2005 run of Tour de France victories and unethically accepted donations from him totaling $125,000.

The three-person panel expressed fears Friday that the process, which was expected to produce a report by June, is being stalled.

”It just amazes me that we have had absolutely no documents whatsoever,” former British Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson said to the UCI’s lawyer. ”When are we going to get the … files?”

Ian Mill, representing the UCI, said the ”entire process has been derailed” because the panel is demanding a truth-and-reconciliation process and amnesty to encourage witnesses to come forward with doping information without fear of retribution.

”An amnesty is one thing, getting to the bottom and determining how the USPS team operated without detection or sanction in a reasonable timescale … causes us considerable anxiety,” Mill said.

”That truth-and-reconciliation process is not capable of being done with the timetable and it may or may not be done under the auspices of this inquiry,” Mill added. ”We can do something which we understand you don’t want to do … a limited inquiry taking place in April.”

The panel is unhappy that it is being asked to effectively suspend itself and not hold its first full hearing until later in 2013 and issue its report in a year. UCI President Pat McQuaid is due to stand for re-election in September.

British judge Philip Otton, who heads the panel, accused the UCI of trying to use the delay in the truth-and-reconciliation process as ”an excuse to kick the USADA allegations into the long grass.”

”We’re not trying to kill this inquiry. We set you up,” Mill responded later in a heated exchange that led to him being told by Otton: ”Please do not raise your voice.”

”We are not the bad guys here,” Mill said. ”We have a finite amount of money available to us … we are not like a football body.”