Texas judge dismisses Armstrong lawsuit seeking to halt USADA proceedings but highlights "troubling aspects" of case

Thursday deadline for seven-time TDF champ to accept USADA sanction or opt for arbitration

by Simon_MacMichael   August 20, 2012  

Lance Armstrong (pic courtesy Photosport International)

A judge in Austin, Texas has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Lance Armstrong to have the disciplinary proceedings brought against him by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) halted. Armstrong had argued that USADA, which has charged him, among others, with being part of what it has described as “a massive doping conspiracy,” had infringed his constitutional right to due process.

Although he ruled against Armstrong, the judge also aimed some stinging criticism at USADA and the two cycling governing bodies involved - USA Cycling and the UCI - highlighting some "troubling aspects" of the case, including USADA's motives in pursuing the cyclist, and a lack of co-operation between that body, USA Cycling and the UCI.

In a written decision, District Judge Sam Sparks said that the civil courts "should not interfere with an amateur sports organization's disciplinary procedures unless the organization shows wanton disregard for its rules, to the immediate and irreparable harm of a plaintiff, where the plaintiff has no other available remedy."

Armstrong has the right to appeal today’s decision, although with USADA having maintained its record of never having had its jurisdiction successfully challenged through the courts, there may be little mileage now in pursuing such a course of action.

Should he choose not to do so, he must now meet a USADA deadline of 23 August – this Thursday –to confirm whether he wishes to accept sanctions proposed by USADA, potentially including a lifetime ban from competitive sport and being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, or take the case to arbitration which is the alternative course of action within the process initiated by the anti-doping body.

“We are reviewing the Court's lengthy opinion and considering Mr. Armstrong's options at this point," said Tim Herman, one of his attorneys.

Today’s decision may be a setback for Armstrong, but it certainly wasn’t a ringing endorsement of USADA’s handling of the issue, either, and Judge Sparks was also critical of a lack of co-operation between the agency and the UCI, which insisted that it alone should determine whether anti-doping rules have been infringed in the case, a stance backed by USA Cycling.

“There are troubling aspects of this case,” maintained Judge Sparks, “not least of which is USADA's apparent single-minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate the charges against him, in direct conflict with UCI's equally evident desire not to proceed against him."

The judge issued USADA with a stern warning that it needed to ensure that Armstrong was given adequate notice of any arbitration decision to afford him sufficient time to prepare his defence. In the event it did not, "and it is brought to this Court's attention in an appropriate manner, USADA is unlikely to appreciate the result," Judge Sparks warned.

Referring to the argument between USADA on the one hand and the UCI and USA Cycling on the other, he wrote: "As mystifying as USADA's election to proceed at this date and in this manner may be, it is equally perplexing that these three national and international bodies are apparently unable to work together to accomplish their shared goal - the regulation and promotion of cycling.

“However, if these bodies wish to damage the image of their sport through bitter infighting, they will have to do so without the involvement of the United States courts."

While declining to rule in favour of Armstrong, the judge also expressed serious reservations about the motivations behind USADA’s pursuit of the seven time Tour de France winner.

"Among the Court's concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after his alleged doping violations occurred, and intends to consolidate his case with those of several other alleged offenders, including - incredibly - several over whom USA Cycling and USOC apparently have no authority whatsoever,” he wrote.

“Further, if Armstrong's allegations are true, and USADA is promising lesser sanctions against other allegedly offending riders in exchange for their testimony against Armstrong, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that USADA is motivated more by politics and a desire for media attention than faithful adherence to its obligations to USOC."

Armstrong’s legal team highlighted the implied criticism of USADA, with Herman saying: "Judge Sparks' opinion confirms what we have said all along. Among other things, the Court confirmed that 'USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives.' "

In a statement, USADA’s chief executive, Travis Tygart, said: “We are pleased that the federal court in Austin, Texas has dismissed Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit and upheld the established rules which provide Congressionally-mandated due process for all athletes.

“The rules in place have protected the rights of athletes for over a decade in every case USADA has adjudicated and we look forward to a timely, public arbitration hearing in this case, should Mr. Armstrong choose, where the evidence can be presented, witness testimony will be given under oath and subject to cross examination, and an independent panel of arbitrators will determine the outcome of the case.”

The UCI acknowledged the court’s decision and pointed out that it was not itself directly involved in the proceedings.

“The US Court was not convinced under US law that Lance Armstrong’s rights of defence would not be respected in the arbitration procedure sought by USADA and in which an appeal to CAS is possible,” the UCI said in a statement. “The Court was confident enough that a procedure before neutral and independent arbitrators would provide sufficient guarantees and had to decide on Lance Armstrong’s objections.

“The UCI was not a party to the US proceedings,” it added. “Based upon the information that was known to it – UCI did not receive a copy of USADA’s file – UCI took the position that it had jurisdiction for results management and proposed that a third neutral and independent body should decide, based upon the evidence in USADA’s file, whether Lance Armstrong had a case to answer or not.”

Its statement concluded: “The UCI notes that according to the US Court an arbitration proceedings [sic] should meet its concerns.”
 

5 user comments

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A victory for clean sport.

Interesting the way the UCI attempt to twist the meaning of the court findings in the following gobbledygook

"The US Court was not convinced under US law that Lance Armstrong’s rights of defence would not be respected in the arbitration procedure sought by USADA and in which an appeal to CAS is possible,”

Although logically correct the statement uses the word 'not' twice, redundantly, to suggest at a casual reading that the finding supported the UCI. Try reading the sentance without saying not to seen what I mean.

Also no mention that WADA had already come down on the side of the USADA.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
21st August 2012 - 10:13

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Good grief this makes for irritating reading!

The judge should read up more on this case - it is not 'many years' since the alleged doping offences occurred, since this USADA allegations cover his comeback in 2009 as well as the seven TdF wins.

It is hardly surprising that the three bodies can't work together since - as he pointed out - the UCI clearly do not wish to prosecute Armstrong (why? who the hell knows but it surely doesn't have anything to do with cleaning up cycling!) and if allegations are true, they actively helped him to cover up his doping in exchange for a bribe. Also this action from USADA has come about because every other attempt to drag this into the light of day has been quashed.

Also not unusual to offer lesser sanctions to those who confess and give evidence - in the criminal courts this is de rigeur, and the main weapon in catching members of organised crime (which is pretty much what Armstrong is accused of).

As for doing damage to the sport of cycling...hmph! Is there really anyone out there who still believes that the Armstrong years were clean? Despite the drop-off in climbing times and mountain ascents? despite all the evidence given to us from the blood passports? despite the fact that virtually every competitor Lance rode against has been caught or confessed?

I'm sure there are some of you out there who DO believe this...along with Father Christmas and the tooth fairy.

posted by Lacticlegs [124 posts]
21st August 2012 - 15:27

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Lacticlegs wrote:
As for doing damage to the sport of cycling...hmph! Is there really anyone out there who still believes that the Armstrong years were clean? ...despite the fact that virtually every competitor Lance rode against has been caught or confessed?

But this is the point, isnt it? What do USADA hope to gain? Most people accept that those years were full of EPO - not just Lance and USPS, but all the challengers too. You can drag Armstrong through the mud, but there isn't much point - who would they give the titles to? Likelihood is they were all on the same stuff.

Not only that, but it has no bearing on the sport now. It doesn't stop athletes from doping when you take away the titles many years later. It doesn't inspire people to ride clean - it just reminds everyone of the dirty past, and probably makes some people think it's still like that.

I've given up worrying about the doping stories, tbh. I watched Contador on the Vuelta climb yesterday and, doper or no doper, it was the most exciting racing I've seen in a grand tour for ages. I want to dislike him because of the ridiculous steak story, but he's so exciting to watch I can't help myself. So I've given up believing or dis-believing the performances, and am just enjoying the racing. Perhaps USADA could take the same approach to the Armstrong era and more productively focus on the present instead?

posted by step-hent [674 posts]
21st August 2012 - 16:40

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But that's the whole point step-hent.

2 years ago, when Contador was on the beef diet he would have ridden away from the other 3.
What made it exciting was the even contest, the level playing field, the lack of a super-human performance - it was a race.

You could argue that there was also a level playing field from the mid 1990s to mid 2000s - but it was phoney.

I remember Bjarne Riis riding away from Indurain in the Pyrenees with that big grin on his face - I got up and turned the TV off and didn't really watch the tour for another 5 years - not that it was much better 5 years later.

_SiD_'s picture

posted by _SiD_ [179 posts]
22nd August 2012 - 9:11

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I still do not feel I understand what is going on here. Surely arbitration is something that you enter with, say, your neighbour over your boundary? Or employee/employer relations? You cannot say,"yes, I doped a little bit, but so did you; lets compromise?" that is arbitration? Does not one side present evidence of wrongdoing and the other challenges that evidence; then some Judge/jury has to pick the fact from fiction? The main evidence against Lance seems to be that lots of others have been caught taking substances and he mysteriously was able to beat them despite hundreds of clean tests on him? This makes him look guilty and in possesion of the knowhow to pass tests despite doping; but usually the defendant is given the benefit of doubt? As has been said above (and before) if Lance losses his titles then Jan Ulrich and others found guilty of doping become multi-tour winners! The loser is cycling as a whole....

posted by SideBurn [787 posts]
22nd August 2012 - 12:40

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