LONDON -- Cycling's governing body is willing to offer amnesty to riders and officials who provide information to its independent panel on doping -- as long as the process is deemed to be in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.
The International Cycling Union has been criticized by anti-doping bodies over the terms of the independent inquiry into the federation's links with Lance Armstrong.
After previously refusing to offer amnesties, the UCI said Wednesday it is now prepared to do so if it does not violate the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules. The commission will meet next week to discuss the possibility of providing amnesties to witnesses who appear at the panel's hearings in London in April.
"The UCI confirms that it will be informing the commission at the hearing next week that it is willing to provide the necessary assurances to those coming forward with evidence .... provided WADA confirms that such assurances would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the WADA Code or, if not, makes the necessary changes to the Code," the body said in a statement.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency submitted a "truth and reconciliation proposal" after the release of its report last October into doping by Armstrong and his teams. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from Olympic sports for life.
The UCI originally opposed the proposal for amnesties because, among other things, there was no provision for such clemency in the WADA code.
On Tuesday, WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency withdrew co-operation with the independent probe because of the UCI's position. The doping agencies say past and current riders and officials won't feel free to come forward unless they are given full or partial amnesties.
The independent panel set up by the UCI came out publicly Wednesday against the governing body's resistance.
"The commission is of the view that such a process would be in the interests not only of the Inquiry, but also of professional cycling as a whole," said the panel, which is composed of retired British judge Philip Otton, Paralympic great Tanni-Grey Thompson and Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes.
The UCI said it has told WADA it would be willing to take part in a truth and reconciliation process covering all endurance sports, not just cycling.
At the same time, the UCI insisted the independent panel should only investigate the governing body's "alleged complicity in the alleged doping of Lance Armstrong" and the disgraced rider's Tour de France teams.
"The role of the commission is not to act as a doping confessional," it said.
In 1,000 pages of evidence and testimony from former Armstrong teammates, USADA raised allegations that the UCI protected and collaborated with the sport's top rider during his years dominating the Tour de France.