Lance Armstrong, the UCI and USADA: Catch-22?

Does the UCI Decision and USADA boss Travis Tygart's response to it reveal the contradiction at the heart of the Armstrong scandal?

by Tony Farrelly   October 24, 2012  

UCI logo on white

The fall-out continues from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Yesterday the cycling's world governing body - the UCI -ratified the sanctions imposed on Armstrong by the United States Anti-Doping Agency… with certain caveats in its own UCI Decision. Last night USADA's head Travis Tygart responded, and he wasn't happy about those caveats.

And well he might not be. The UCI's Decision has the tone of a playground bully who's just come up against a bigger bully but is determined to wheedle away at its tormentor, landing the odd blow even as it is forced to give in. Like all proper playground bullies the UCI knows how to deliver a sly kick in the balls.

Essentially the UCI's position is that it accepts the penalties imposed by USADA primarily because Armstrong  chose not to defend the charge - which meant the matter became purely disciplinary - the UCI already accepts USADA's jurisdiction in disciplinary proceedings regarding US cyclists. 

However the UCi Decision then goes on to add:

"…there should be no doubt that if USADA had provided UCI with the case file – which USADA refused to do – for results management purposes, UCI would have come to the conclusion that Mr Armstrong had a case to answer indeed and that UCI would have asked USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against Mr Armstrong. Then USA Cycling, under its own rules, would have referred the case to USADA to deal with the disciplinary proceedings. If then, as he did now, Mr Armstrong would also have decided not to proceed to an arbitration hearing, USADA would have taken a decision in the same way as it has done on 10 October 2012.

Therefore there is for UCI no issue of jurisdiction when it comes to decide at this stage whether to appeal to CAS or not."

On the question of why USADA refused to hand over its files to the UCI Tygart told the Guardian:

"We set forth our position on why they were conflicted in this case on many different grounds," said Tygart, "They accepted money from him [Armstrong], they accused us of a witch-hunt (without seeing any evidence), they sued the chief whistleblower, they discouraged witnesses from participating."

Tygart obviously believes that neither the UCI nor USA Cycling could be trusted to handle such a potentially explosive case in the right way .

"All in all, given what was at stake for the sport," said Tygart, "I was very doubtful this day would ever come". Which on the face of it seems to miss the UCI's point that once it had instructed USA Cycling to start proceedings it would have handed the files back to USADA as the body with disciplinary jurisdiction over US licence holding cyclists. Unless of course Tygart doesn't believe that this is what would have happened in reality. He may have a point.

It is what the UCI Decision has to say regarding USADA's decision that the eight year statute of limitation laid down in the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) didn't apply in the Armstrong case that really riles Tygart in his comments to the Guardian.

The UCI accepts that Armstrong forfeited his right to appeal against USADA's removal of the statute of limitations by his failure to contest the charges when he knew what the sanctions would be. But…

"If UCI would have taken the decision at the end of results management, it would have limited disciplinary proceedings to violations asserted to have occurred during the eight years preceding the opening of such proceedings."

If the UCI had limited the case against Armstrong to 'results management'  - the area in which it claims jurisdiction - both the positive and suspicious results USADA cites in its evidence would have been inadmissible under the statute of limitations.  Given that the UCI doesn't accept that Armstrong doped on his comeback… because there are no results to back up that claim. On one reading of this the logical conclusion has to be that the UCI would have found there was no case to answer.

No wonder USADA didn't want to hand the files over.

But there's more, the UCI Decision goes on to question the basis on which USADA set aside the statute of limitations:

"The UCI is of the opinion that the Code is very clear in this respect:
No action may be commenced against an Athlete or other Person for an anti-doping rule violation contained in the Code unless such action is commenced within eight (8) years from the date the violation is asserted to have occurred.

"The Code does not provide for any possibility for an anti-doping organization to take away from the athlete or other person the benefit of this clause.

"It is UCI’s view that USADA’s reference to national law is not appropriate."

The UCI goes on to urge WADA to appeal the decision.

"…the statute of limitations is a fundamental rule of the World Anti- Doping Code. It is WADA’s role and responsibility to ensure compliance with the Code and to appeal to CAS in order to warrant, as is the mission of WADA, that the Code is applied in a uniform way worldwide and that all athletes are treated equally."

Yesterday in our piece about WADA's response to the UCI's Decision -  we quoted the head of WADA, John Fahey, pointing out that his organisation does indeed have the power to appeal and has 21 days to do so from the 31st of October - although it seems unlikely it will.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Travis Tygart comes out swinging in response:

"Armstrong denied himself the benefit of any statute because he lied under oath and many other forums, swearing that he did not dope, in addition to bullying witnesses into silence," Tygart responded. "If he had not done this, he might have benefited from the statute of limitation. To raise this now, only further shows their reluctance to do the right thing for the sport going forward."

However it is an uncomfortable truth that there is nothing in the WADC that gives USADA the right to set aside the statute of limitations for Armstrong even if he did bully and intimidate witnesses.

Furthermore the UCI does seem to hit a nerve when it insinuates that some of the evidence gathered against Armstrong was given under duress.

"[This is] another example of the UCI attempting to escape responsibility for their failures and it is quite sad they would continue to resort to such underhanded tactics at this time," said Tygart. "This is absolutely fiction, made up by them to justify their ineptness at failing to prevent this 'great heist' in their sport," says Tygart

That may well be true, but it is also possible to on an objective reading some of the rider affidavits given against Armstrong from the likes of George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer to get they impression they were not given given particularly willingly. Furthermore USADA has already been criticised by a judge over aspects its case against Armstrong.

In August while throwing out Armstrong's attempt to have the USADA action against him halted, Texas District Judge Sam Sparks had some withering things to say in his written decision about USADA and its prosecution of its case against Armstrong:

"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."

The UCI's Decision and Travis Tygart's response to it reveals the Catch-22 at the heart of the Armstrong scandal.

If the rules had been applied as they were meant to be the greatest cheat not only in the history of cycling but in any major sport would probably never have been caught, while to catch him there is at least the suspicion that USADA put the result before the rules… just like Lance Armstrong did.

31 user comments

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An excellent and thought provoking article, having to cheat to catch a cheat seems to put the system in jeopardy and I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with the lengths USADA have gone to to catch Armstrong. That being said, I'm glad he was caught and if this is what was needed then I'm glad at least one agency had the balls to do it.

Is it time to give a wholly independent body the power to run and investigate the anti-doping set-up in sport? Should WADA be responsible for testing and prosecuting rather than the UCI and the local federations?

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
24th October 2012 - 9:16

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Its the fact that the Yanks can withold stuff that worries me. Not that I feel that the UCI are any better. It just seems too parochial and I still feel that the USADA have an axe to grind.

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
24th October 2012 - 9:34

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Just another example of the UCI not smelling the coffee and instead expressing it's hubris at having been legally and politically shown the way by a national drug enforcement agency. Arguably USADA ,in this action against Armstrong, have done more to: - "e) to promote sportsmanship and fair play; (Article 2 - UCI Constitution) than the UCI would have achieved had in been allowed to manage the case into a drawn out farce.

And by the way, Larry the liar has never been slow to exploiting every legal trick in the book to continue his conceit and fraud so why his passivity now?

Sudor

posted by Sudor [179 posts]
24th October 2012 - 9:44

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drheaton wrote:
...having to cheat to catch a cheat seems to put the system in jeopardy and I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with the lengths USADA have gone to to catch Armstrong

This sums it up for me. I'm glad he's not in the sport any more, and I'm glad that things are (apparently) changing for the better, but I don't like the fact that the rules have to be disregarded in part in order to enforce them. Why have a limitation period if it isn't going to apply?

All that said, I think I just feel that way because I wish everyone could move on. It's sad to see a fantastic summer for cycling in this country being brought down by events of 10+ years ago. Perhaps now the teams can demonstrate how things have moved on and find a way for the sport to move past all the crap. Fingers crossed eh?

What we need is a decent bit of racing to take the emphasis away from the bad news! Roll on spring...

posted by step-hent [652 posts]
24th October 2012 - 10:02

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step-hent wrote:
drheaton wrote:
...having to cheat to catch a cheat seems to put the system in jeopardy and I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with the lengths USADA have gone to to catch Armstrong

This sums it up for me. I'm glad he's not in the sport any more, and I'm glad that things are (apparently) changing for the better, but I don't like the fact that the rules have to be disregarded in part in order to enforce them. Why have a limitation period if it isn't going to apply?

All that said, I think I just feel that way because I wish everyone could move on. It's sad to see a fantastic summer for cycling in this country being brought down by events of 10+ years ago. Perhaps now the teams can demonstrate how things have moved on and find a way for the sport to move past all the crap. Fingers crossed eh?

What we need is a decent bit of racing to take the emphasis away from the bad news! Roll on spring...

Agreed, if only this case had fallen just before a big race we could put it behind us and concentrate on the actual sport. Sadly, as it's all come out at the start of the off-season, the only cycling we'll be talking about all winter is the Armstrong case and doping.

This keeps cycling in the news for all the wrong reasons and means that there are no positive stories out there to counterbalance the negative perception being built up in the public eye thanks to the general media.

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
24th October 2012 - 10:19

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I can't find a good original source, but the (or part of the) argument used for ignoring the statute of limitations - and it appears in numerous places with a brief search - is in the case of a cover-up (dunno if that's what PaulJ refers to with CAS ?) - ie if Armstrong had owned up the statute would have remained in place.

posted by JonD [177 posts]
24th October 2012 - 10:32

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I think the position is JonD that all parties accept that Armstrong effectively agreed to the removal of the statute by failing to contest the charge but if he'd contested it he would have had strong grounds for challenging the removal of the statute, while USADA have said that if he'd enagaged with the process the statute would have applied.

It seems to me if any of the other possible scenarios had played out this would have ended up at CAS… and it still could if WADA exercises its right of appeal. That's unlikely to happen but what is much more likely is that someone is going to have to re-write the WADC so that it better reflects the current reality.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
24th October 2012 - 10:51

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mattscm: The Yanks didn't withhold anything. They've given all the evidence to the UCI and other bodies. Indeed, they've released them publically. They were under no obligation to share them with the UCI any earlier.

drheaton: USADA havn't bent the system. They've been careful to stay within its letter. Bear in mind the guy who runs USADA is one of the lawyers who helped write the WADA Code!

jond: Read pages 146 on, and 154 on, in the reasoned decision from USADA, available from their special website into the case, along with all the other materials. To quote:

The eight-year statute of limitation found in Article 17 of the Code is not absolute. As
the CAS panel in CAS 2005/C/841 CONI found, the “interruption, suspension, expiry or extension of such [eight-year] time-bar . . . . should be dealt with in the context of the principles of private law of the country where the interested sports authority is domiciled.” (CONI, ¶ 78) As the anti-doping organization conducting results management, USADA is the “interested party” in this case. Thus, the statute of limitations issue should be analyzed according to U.S. law. Under U.S. law, the running of a statute of limitation is suspended when a person has fraudulently concealed his conduct: “one who wrongfully conceals material facts and thereby prevents discovery of his wrong . . . is not permitted to assert the statute of limitations as a bar to an action against him, thus taking advantage of his own wrong, until the expiration of the full statutory period from the time when the facts were discovered or should, with reasonable diligence, have been discovered.” (Pacific Electric Co., 310 F.2d 271, at 277 (quoting 34 Am.Jur. 188))

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
24th October 2012 - 11:01

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"We didn't hand over the files to the UCI, primarily beacause they're a bunch of corrupt, lying bastards."

posted by Alb [77 posts]
24th October 2012 - 11:02

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tony_farrelly wrote:
I think the position is JonD that all parties accept that Armstrong effectively agreed to the removal of the statute by failing to contest the charge but if he'd contested it he would have had strong grounds for challenging the removal of the statute, while USADA have said that if he'd enagaged with the process the statute would have applied.

It seems to me if any of the other possible scenarios had played out this would have ended up at CAS… and it still could if WADA exercises its right of appeal. That's unlikely to happen but what is much more likely is that someone is going to have to re-write the WADC so that it better reflects the current reality.

Agreed, in pretty much any other scenario it should have ended up at CAS and I think that's probably where I would have liked it to have gone so that everything could be done out in the open.

Ideally USADA would have put together the evidence, passed it to UCI who would have acted on it properly and we'd have ended up in exactly the same situation but without the pissing contests and the other allegations of over-stepping boundries and veiled accusations of corruption.

Unfortunately I have to agree with USADA in that I, like them, wouldn't have trusted a body with so much vested interest to deal with the case in the correct way.

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
24th October 2012 - 11:12

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tony_farrelly wrote:
I think the position is JonD that all parties accept that Armstrong effectively agreed to the removal of the statute by failing to contest the charge but if he'd contested it he would have had strong grounds for challenging the removal* of the statute, while USADA have said that if he'd enagaged with the process the statute would have applied.

I refer you to PaulJ's answer..

posted by JonD [177 posts]
24th October 2012 - 11:23

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Its not difficult to see from the UCI response how so many drug cheats have slipped the net.

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
24th October 2012 - 11:48

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I see the points raised in this article, and they are very good ones, however the last paragraph is missing the big picture entirely. If the UCI had actually done what *they* were supposed to do in the first place (I'm talking 10+ years ago) and not tried to bury this whole thing, all this procedural stuff and the statute of limitations issue would be moot. And USADA (and anyone else with half a brain) wouldn't have such strong reasons to believe that the UCI is corrupt and/or completely incompetent.

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
24th October 2012 - 12:03

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I don’t get a lot of these responses.

Having to cheat to catch a cheat? Statute of limitations? Seriously?

Effectively what I’m hearing here is that, okay – we now know he doped and lied to us. We know he ruined the careers of several people who tried to bring this to light. We know he may well have given himself cancer in the first place and he made a mountain of money coming back from it. We know the damage to our sport is incalculable.

But despite knowing this – we were really enjoying the fairytale and all these harsh facts have ruined it. Please can’t we go back to sleep and have things just as before? I think really the problem is Landis and Hamilton, if they’d never spoken out then we could still be watching pigs fly.

Some idiot even wrote that Landis and Hamilton have ruined the sport!

Grow up would you please!

posted by Lacticlegs [124 posts]
24th October 2012 - 12:13

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Well said Lactilegs. Pat (lying, banned, nepotistic, apartheid supporting, etc.) McQuaid reserving most of his venom for the people who ratted out Armstrong shows the UCI's true position. "We're not that worried about doping, as long as when you're caught you keep the omerta and don't rock the boat. A donation? Sure, why not?"

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
24th October 2012 - 14:32

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The whole thing stinks and not one person, agency or union comes out of it with any credit or credibility at all.

posted by adrianharvey [8 posts]
24th October 2012 - 17:33

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Pot calling the kettle to be honest.

posted by adrianharvey [8 posts]
24th October 2012 - 17:34

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USADA seem to agree with a previous post of mine - the UCI are a crock of shite. Get rid of them and start again, their ineptitude and lack of probity is endemic as it is top down. Just getting rid of 'Pat' is half arsed solution - the procedures, people and nomenclature they use mean they institutionally inept.

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

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
24th October 2012 - 18:02

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The big picture is surely that he got caught, which is what everyone wanted - the point of the article is that the system is such a mess that the UCI had to be gone around and boundaries pushed.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
24th October 2012 - 19:40

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I think that would be open to challenge surely, the USADA went looking for a suitable precedent from another case - had another body or Armstrong wished to challenge that they could of. Just because USADA say they have a precedent that supports their actions doesn't necessarily make it so.

Plus of court Travis Tygart has said that they wouldn't have set aside the statute of limitations if Armstrong had co-operated which does sound like he was using it as a lever. I'd also have to refer you back to what the judge said - if USADA are going to use local law to help stand up their case the comments of a US judge certainly make it sound like there would have been a problem with all the rider affidavits.

Nobody should lose any sleep over Armstrong but it does seem that the way he was brought down shows that the system needs fixing - and I'm not talking just about the UCI that's obvious, but the WADC and who has reponsibility for what.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
24th October 2012 - 19:52

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Lacticlegs wrote:
I don’t get a lot of these responses.

Having to cheat to catch a cheat? Statute of limitations? Seriously?

Effectively what I’m hearing here is that, okay – we now know he doped and lied to us. We know he ruined the careers of several people who tried to bring this to light. We know he may well have given himself cancer in the first place and he made a mountain of money coming back from it. We know the damage to our sport is incalculable.

But despite knowing this – we were really enjoying the fairytale and all these harsh facts have ruined it. Please can’t we go back to sleep and have things just as before? I think really the problem is Landis and Hamilton, if they’d never spoken out then we could still be watching pigs fly.

Some idiot even wrote that Landis and Hamilton have ruined the sport!

Grow up would you please!

You seem to be reading a different article and comments to me - I can't see anyone bemoaning the fact that harsh facts have ruined the fairytale. Simply some unease that it took what seems to be an 'ends justify the means' approach to get the right result… That I'd say is a grown up response.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
24th October 2012 - 20:00

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Even by UCI's usual standards this is inept and craven - you can see exactly why USADA didn't trust them at all and went all the way on their own, presenting the UCI with a fait accompli. the UCI are absolutely rubbish (as my 8 year old son has just pointed out). Do the ends justify the means? Absolutely, in my view.

Wonder if USADA can turn their attention to Indurain now - his comments suggest he's not too bright, in denial and seems to have forgotten he was a major league doper in his time.... Just a thought Devil

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [210 posts]
24th October 2012 - 20:24

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ALB probably true about the UCI but you can include the USADA in the same category for a judge to be withering about the motive and there actions letting some off to implicate one man creates the idea is all of what USADA came up with reliable. As big Mig said its only testimony of 5 riders and there are many riders coming out of the wood work saying they saw nothing and nothing concerned them.

If USADA had been professional in this they the case would have been stronger instead of seeking political gains and media kudos which the judge seemed to think was the reason for the single minded pursuit of LA.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
24th October 2012 - 20:29

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I'm sure Armstrong cheated - but it is clearly a witch hunt against one man when the reality is the whole peleton was at it. As for testimony from people like "Big George" - for me I'm less interested in what he said happened all those years ago. I want to know When did you stop doping. After USPS/Discovery, last year, never??.

I think it's good that hopefully the sport can wipe the slate clean and I hope that there is a cull at the UCI but I think for USADA to be an authority, they also need to act in a way that is above reproach - and they are far from doing that.

posted by MDC 06 [6 posts]
24th October 2012 - 20:43

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Ciaran Patrick wrote:
ALB probably true about the UCI but you can include the USADA in the same category for a judge to be withering about the motive and there actions letting some off to implicate one man creates the idea is all of what USADA came up with reliable. As big Mig said its only testimony of 5 riders and there are many riders coming out of the wood work saying they saw nothing and nothing concerned them.

If USADA had been professional in this they the case would have been stronger instead of seeking political gains and media kudos which the judge seemed to think was the reason for the single minded pursuit of LA.


Judge Sam Sparks said nothing of the sort. In criticising USADA and the UCI (and it's funny how many people forget the latter was criticised), he found it a "troubling aspect" that two organisations, both charged with Keeping sport clean, were fighting each other.
I suggest you actually read the ruling rather than an Armstrong biased summation.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
24th October 2012 - 21:41

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Reading everyone’s comments just highlights how damaging drug abuse in sport really is.

We, the lovers of sport, and in my case, cycling, in particular, have been so badly let down I doubt anyone alive today will ever trust spectacular sporting results again. As a Brit, living in London, I now know just how special sport is to a community and a nation after the olympics this summer. To have my sense of well-being and utter joy sullied by people like Armstrong makes me so sad and downhearted it’s hard to put into words.

God only knows what sport will be like in the future but unless the sporting and civil authorities start to get their acts together and make sporting drug abuse a criminal offence (after all it is technically fraud) and start banging the perps up we, the punters, will always mistrust our sporting heroes.

Sadly, looking at the various stories around doping in cycling it appears that some countries (such as Spain) have been very lenient when it comes to laying down the law. I didn’t realise that Contador had been implicated in doping prior to his recent ban in Operación Puerto back in 2006 but was let off by the Spanish courts along with 2 other Spaniards a Portugeuse and an Aussie. One of the acquitted Spaniards, Beloki, is a possible recipient of 3 of the vacant TdF titles (2000, ’01, & ’02) as the only rider in the top three of those years not to have a doping case proven against them. At the time the UCI was very disappointed in the Spanish courts decision so it is unlikely Beloki will receive any of the titles, unless the UCI wants to have even more egg on its face.

What an awful way to round off what for me has been the most enjoyable sporting year of my 50 years.

posted by BigBear63 [69 posts]
24th October 2012 - 23:04

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Another area where USADA has been 'economical with the verite'. What USADA referred to was an 'opinion' CAS gave on a couple of questions CONI asked in 2005. It wasn't a case as such.

Also the questions posed to the panel weren't about limitation periods, though they were mentioned and where they were mentioned, the implication was that they should be adhered to. Perhaps worth noting that the maximum limitation period under Swiss law (from which CAS decisions can be appealed) is 10 years

posted by izzi green [12 posts]
25th October 2012 - 10:57

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Johan Bruynell is defending the charges so far as I understand. Will the hearing which results from that resolve all these issues in some way?

Well, I'll be...

posted by Zebra [27 posts]
25th October 2012 - 12:15

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Good question. Which is perhaps a reason why WADA won't go to CAS to settle the limitation period issue.

However, if the Bruyneel case does go ahead it could be a long-drawn out affair. Arbitration in the US, appeal to CAS, appeal to the Swiss Federal court and possibly the European Court of Human Rights before things are settled.

What USADA could do is hand the evidence over to the Belgians and let them sort it out. Or maybe Bruyneel will save his money and not fight USADA but take the UCI to the ECHR. In any event, a good time to be a sports lawyer!

posted by izzi green [12 posts]
25th October 2012 - 12:42

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" Is it time to give a wholly independent body the power to run and investigate the anti-doping set-up in sport? Should WADA be responsible for testing and prosecuting rather than the UCI and the local federations? "

" Even by UCI's usual standards this is inept and craven - you can see exactly why USADA didn't trust them at all and went all the way on their own, presenting the UCI with a fait accompli."

" Another area where USADA has been 'economical with the verite'. What USADA referred to was an 'opinion' CAS gave on a couple of questions CONI asked in 2005. It wasn't a case as such. "

Excellent points ! Now help those Athletes that wish to step forward and detail their Career misdeeds :

http://t.co/oFWgsHA7

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [378 posts]
26th October 2012 - 11:59

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