Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Lance Armstrong’s cycling licenses say he must arbitrate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s claims he took banned drugs, ruled a judge who said he was still troubled by the targeting of the seven-time Tour de France champion.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, today dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit seeking to block USADA from forcing him to defend allegations that he violated anti-doping rules during his career. The cycling champion claimed USADA had no authority over him and that its proceedings were rigged.
While rejecting Armstrong’s argument, Sparks said there were “troubling aspects” of Armstrong’s lawsuit against the organization, including the appearance of conflicts of interest on the part of USADA and an international cycling federation that has backed Armstrong’s position, as well as Armstrong’s claims that USADA’s procedures violate his rights to see and question the evidence against him before an arbitration hearing.
“Among the court’s concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after the alleged doping violations occurred,” Sparks said. “Unfortunately, the appearance of conflict on the part of both organizations creates doubt the charges against Armstrong would receive fair consideration in either forum.”
Sparks said USADA has consolidated Armstrong’s case with those of several other alleged offenders over whom U.S. cycling authorities have no authority. Armstrong alleged USADA has promised lesser sanctions against other riders in exchange for their testimony against him.
If true, “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 international cycling rules, Sparks said.
Yet courts shouldn’t get involved in the matter, Sparks said, ruling that the arbitration panel should sort out which cycling federation has ultimate authority over the doping allegations. He said that if Armstrong doesn’t receive advance notice of the details of the allegations against him “and it is brought to this court’s attention in an appropriate manner, USADA is unlikely to appreciate the result.”
Tim Herman, Armstrong’s attorney, said the ruling “confirms what we have said all along.” He said in an e-mail that he is reviewing the opinion and weighing Armstrong’s options.
USADA, the national anti-doping organization for Olympic sports, notified Armstrong in June that he, three doctors and two officials from the cyclist’s former U.S. Postal Service racing team were accused of using and trafficking prohibited drugs, according to court filings. An independent panel of arbitrators would decide the matter, the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based agency said.
“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,” Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive officer, said in an e-mail.
The agency’s lawyers argued in court papers that Armstrong is subject to U.S. anti-doping rules and the association’s procedures, including its requirement that allegations be resolved through arbitration.
Armstrong’s attorneys said the Union Cycliste International, an international cycling federation based in Switzerland, has exclusive jurisdiction over drug tests, disciplinary actions and other matters covered by the USADA’s claims.
The UCI agreed, and its attorneys said in court papers that USADA should turn over its files on Armstrong to the federation, noting USADA’s allegations against Armstrong are based only on witness statements.
Armstrong says he has never failed a drug test. USADA attorney William Bock said at an Aug. 17 court hearing that the association doesn’t have a positive drug test for Armstrong.
“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,” the cycling federation said in an e-mailed statement. “The UCI notes that, according to the U.S. court, an arbitration proceeding should meet its concerns.”
Armstrong, 40, won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005, survived testicular cancer and created Livestrong, a cancer charity. In February, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles ended a criminal probe involving Armstrong and his professional bicycle racing team without filing charges. Armstrong has denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The case is Armstrong v. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, 1:12-cv-00606, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin).
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