A judge in Austin, Texas, yesterday afternoon threw out a lawsuit filed earlier in the day by Lance Armstrong in which the seven-time Tour de France champion sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) from pressing ahead with charges against him based on its accusation that the former US Postal Service rider and others of having engaged in “a massive doping conspiracy.”
Armstrong’s lawsuit had sought to prevent USADA from being able to enforce a deadline of this Saturday, 14 July, requiring him to either accept the penalty that it proposes be imposed on him, namely being banned from sporting competition for life and being stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005, or agree to contest the charges he faces through an arbitration process.
In his filing, Armstrong claimed that the process was “rigged to ensure that it [USADA] cannot lose,” and insisted that the agency and its chief executive, Travis Tygart, are acting unlawfully in targeting him.
Dismissing Armstrong’s request, which was contained in a lengthy brief submitted to the court, US District Court Judge Sam Sparks told the retired cyclist that the filing did not conform to court rules that required a brief summary of pleadings to be given, inviting his legal team to resubmit its brief within 20 days but ordering it to “omit any improper argument, rhetoric, or irrelevant material,” reports the Washington Post.
In a stinging criticism of the brief as it was originally filed, the judge wrote: “Armstrong’s complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts.
“Worse, the bulk of the paragraphs contain ‘allegations’ that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong’s claims — and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of the case, and to incite public opinion against the Defendants.”
Tim Herman, an Austin-based lawyer acting for Armstrong, confirmed to the Washington Post that the lawsuit would be resubmitted later this week, saying: “We will re-file in a format that conforms to what Judge Sparks wants. Obviously, I would have preferred not to have the order — I’d be lying if I said otherwise — but Judge Sparks is very straightforward, to say the least. When he speaks, I listen.”
The Washington Post cited one lawyer experienced with anti-doping cases, Chicago-based John P. Collins, as describing the ruling as “not a positive sign for Lance.”
Collins said: “I agree with the judge: This was written like a press release, like a novel. That’s a big slap at [Armstrong]. I think the judge said to him, why did you make me spend my entire day reading 80 pages? This judge in West Texas is probably saying, ‘I am not trying this case in the media. I don’t need an O.J. [Simpson] case.’”
In a press release following the filing of the lawsuit by Armstrong’s lawyers, USADA issued a statement which read: “Like previous lawsuits aimed at concealing the truth, this lawsuit is without merit and we are confident the courts will continue to uphold the established rules which provide full constitutional due process and are designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport.”
Any second filing by Armstrong’s legal team will have to be much more tightly worded and focused on the court’s requirements than the document filed today if the 40-year-old is to win his fight to avoid an arbitration hearing, which would have to be held by November this year.
If granted an injunction against USADA, the former cyclist, who is accused alongside his former manager at several teams, Johan Bruyneel, as well as the Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, among others, would no doubt become engaged in a lengthy legal battle with USADA – but one that, given the agency’s limited resources, it would struggle to sustain for long, according to the newspaper.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.