Senator John McCain defends USADA's right to pursue Lance Armstrong; Johan Bruyneel opts to fight charges

Former Presidential Candidate issues statement the day after Wisconsin Congressman had questioned USADA's motives

by Simon_MacMichael   July 14, 2012  

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate in the 2008 US presidential election, has said that he supports the right of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to pursue former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong on doping charges. McCain’s comments, made yesterday, came the day after a Congressman had questioned USADA’s motives in bringing charges against the former US Postal rider. Meanwhile, USADA yesterday confirmed that Armstrong’s former manager at that team and other outfits, Johan Bruyneel, had chosen to fight the allegations against him in an arbitration hearing.

In a statement published on his website McCain, who is senator for Arizona and was beaten in the race to the White House four years ago by Barack Obama, said: “While the charges are serious, and I expect the process to be fair, I fully support USADA and its right to undertake the investigation of, and bring charges against, Lance Armstrong.

“USADA is authorized by Congress and provides assurances to taxpayers, fans and competitors that sports in America are clean,” he continued.

“USADA’s rules and processes, approved by America’s athletes, the United States Olympic Committee and all U.S. sport federations, apply to all athletes regardless of their public profile or success in sport. This process is the proper forum to decide matters concerning individual cases of alleged doping violations,” McCain concluded.

On Thursday, Republican Congressman representative Jim Sensenbrenner, had written to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which provides most of USADA’s funding – $9 million per year, according to Sensenbrenner – questioning that body’s supervision of USADA and the anti-doping agency’s pursuit of Armstrong.

In that letter, a copy of which has been published on his website, the Congressman made reference to Armstrong having been subject to more than 500 doping controls throughout his career and never testing positive, a line repeatedly used by the former cyclist’s legal and PR advisors.

Part of USADA’s case against Armstrong, however, is that a positive test for EPO on a sample taken from the cyclist during the 2001 Tour de Suisse had been covered up with the complicity of world cycling’s governing body, the UCI.

Quoting a comment from Armstrong’s advisors accusing USADA of having created a “kangaroo court,” the Congressman underlined that a previous Federal Grand Jury investigation into the former cyclist and the US Postal team had been shelved earlier this year with no charges brought.

“USADA’s authority over Armstrong is strained at best,” he maintained. “The agency seeks to strip Armstrong of earnings and titles dating from before its own existence.  Congress designated USADA as the United States’ National Anti-Doping Organization in 2000, but the agency is seeking to sanction Armstrong for conduct beginning in 1998.  Furthermore, during Armstrong’s cycling career, the International Cycling Union (UCI) had exclusive authority to sanction Armstrong for violation of its anti-doping rules.  Even if USADA had jurisdiction over Armstrong, the majority of Armstrong’s cycling career should be protected by USADA’s 8 year statute of limitations,” he insisted.

Sensenbrenner represents Wisconsin’s fifth congressional district – an area, as Armstrong’s critics were quick to point out that includes the city of Waterloo, where Trek Bicycle Corporation is headquartered; Armstrong rode Trek bikes to each of his seven Tour de France victories, and is understood to be a part-owner of the privately held company, with BikeBiz reporting in 2005 that he had been granted 7,000 shares in it in recognition of his ongoing contribution to the business, which experienced booming sales partly as a result of his success.

In response to Congressman Sensenbrenner’s letter, USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart yesterday insisted that the case against Armstrong, Bruyneel and three others who have already received lifetime bans after choosing not to take the matter to arbitration “was not brought lightly.”

In a statement released via USADA's website, he said: “We are well aware of his [Armstong’s] popularity and the admirers he has on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, but our responsibility is to clean athletes who demand that USADA protect their right to a level playing field by eradicating drug use from sport. They rightly depend upon USADA to ensure that no matter how famous or anonymous, we will treat each alleged offender the same.

“USADA accomplishes this directive when it has sufficient evidence and not on any other basis,” he went on. “Any decision to sanction an athlete is the result of multi-level review by persons independent of USADA including a panel of arbitrators following a full evidentiary hearing with a right of appeal where, witness testimony is given under oath and subject to cross examination and which can be open to the public.



Tygart maintained: “The evidence is overwhelming, and were we not to bring this case, we would be complicit in covering up evidence of doping, and failing to do our job on behalf of those we are charged with protecting.



“We will reach out to Congressman Sensenbrenner and offer to come in and discuss the process, which is the same in all cases whether it involves high profile athletes or those who are not. 

He added: “We will also offer to brief the Congressman on how USADA is funded and the oversight that is provided by ONDCP. USADA is an open and transparent organization and welcomes the opportunity to fully address the Congressman’s inquiry.”

Meanwhile, USADA, which earlier this week gave Armstrong a 30-day extension for him to decide whether to accept its sanction or elect for an arbitration hearing, also confirmed yesterday that Belgian national Bruyneel has elected to have his case determined by a three man arbitration panel later this year.

The alternative facing Bruyneel, who is currently manager of RadioShack-Nissan but chose not to travel with it to the Tour de France after USADA said last month that it was pressing charges, would have been to accept the penalty imposed by the agency.

As directeur sportive at US Postal, Bruyneel helped mastermind Armstrong's seven Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005, as well as two by Alberto Contador while the Spaniard was racing for Dicovery Channel and Astana,

It is thought that Bruyneel would have faced a lifetime worldwide ban, similar to that already imposed by USADA against the three other individuals charged in the case, those being the Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari and two Spaniards, former US Postal team doctor Luis Garcia del Moral and its trainer Jose 'Pepe' Marti, none of whom chose to contest the charges.

There’s a certain irony in a former Republican Presidential candidate such as McCain weighing in on the subject of the charges Armstrong is facing; at the height of his success, it was widely considered that the cyclist, who developed a close personal friendship with President George W Bush, might pursue a career in politics after his retirement from competition, with some even speculating that he might himself one day run for election to the White House.

It’s been a long time since anyone spoke of Armstrong running for office, whether at state level or elsewhere. Instead, the battle that seems likely to confirm his legacy and place in history, one way or the other, won’t be fought out through the ballot box but looks set to take place in front of USADA’s arbitration panel later this year.

8 user comments

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I couldn't be bothered reading all that, Sorry Simon, I'm sure its a very well written article.

But this is now going to roll on for years and its just going to uncover issues all over the shop. Would have been better just to leave things alone.

Ban the Dr's, but I fear dragging Armstrong into it, with all the money he now has and the back up of some big wig lawyers. Its going to drag more and more riders into as he tries to cover his own back and pass the buck.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [7624 posts]
14th July 2012 - 11:06

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I reckon most of those who are going to get dragged in have already been dragged in. I don't think it's going to drag on for years either, we're in to the final act… Lance is in the bunker.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4095 posts]
14th July 2012 - 12:56

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All the one's who have been caught or suspected that are going "willing" to give evidence is one thing.

BUT, How many more have gone without being caught?

If Armstrong and Bruyneel did do something wrong and decided to put their hands up to it (which it can't see because they'll fight to the death) .....They could drag everyone down with them, Which in theory could be quite a number of riders, ex riders and team guys. Thinking

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [7624 posts]
14th July 2012 - 18:22

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Having just read wiggo's article on why he wouldn't
dope I can understand his recent outburst and
dislike of dopers. Lance may have been the Golden
boy, but how many other cyclists were caught for doping
during that era ? Was he the golden boy of a doped
generation of cyclists ?

For now ask any clean cyclist who competed alongside him
how they feel about not taking things forward and continuing
the investigation. The investigation will hopefully assist the removal of
cycling's long term disease, doping from the sport, for good.

However if the investigation doesn't prove anything then he's still a cycling
god, and it must be left at that. However if he did dope then use your own
morality to judge his achievments in the light of any new evidence.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [115 posts]
14th July 2012 - 23:24

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Does anyone know what the hell is going on. It seems the us of A judicial system in cases like this has little to do with justice but bargining and qudos points for political bodies.

I find it strange that the USADA claim the UCI covered Lance Armstrong positive test in 2001 but surely you prove the cover up and then if correct you pursue Lance Armstrong. This all smacks of political posturing on capital hill than a reasonable case of doping to pursue.

This really smacks of a Kangeroo Court and the accused seems to have little or no right, if the above article is to be believed. It seems he is already convicted, it is just a procedural thing.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [113 posts]
15th July 2012 - 6:52

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What if Lance didn't dope himself, but through the management of the team insisted the other rides did so they'd be the "train" to carry him to 7 wins?

posted by stufield [19 posts]
15th July 2012 - 9:02

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Gkam84 wrote:
I couldn't be bothered reading all that, Sorry Simon, I'm sure its a very well written article.

But this is now going to roll on for years and its just going to uncover issues all over the shop. Would have been better just to leave things alone.

Ban the Dr's, but I fear dragging Armstrong into it, with all the money he now has and the back up of some big wig lawyers. Its going to drag more and more riders into as he tries to cover his own back and pass the buck.

Yeah you're right Gkam84 - he's got too much money, and some good lawyers. So we should just let him cheat and get away with it.

In fact why bother with a legal process for anything? We should just do a means-test for all offenders - rape, murder, fraud...anyone with a net worth of more than $3,000,000 should be considered untouchable.

The world must look like a wonderful place from where you sit!

posted by Lacticlegs [124 posts]
16th July 2012 - 16:52

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what no one has stated is where he stands against his sponsors at the time , us postal will sue if he is found guilty , this will ruin him financially , this is why LA keeps running , its a say it aint so momment , personnally I think he is guilty I thought this when he was riding , even though I was a LA supporter it was not normal what he and the peleton were doing those days , sprinting up cat hor cols is impossible without "assistance" .I hope it all comes out and the dark days are exposed for what they were and the sport can move into a clean area , you will always get cheats but when it is endemic like it has been in cycling for years it blurs reality .just another quickie if he loses his jerseys who will they give them to , they will have to go pretty deep into the standings to find a clean rider

REGARDS THE HAPPY HAMMER

posted by west ham plodder [8 posts]
30th July 2012 - 18:40

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