Lance Armstrong Enlists GOP Congressman to Investigate Anti-Doping Agency

Lance Armstrong Enlists GOP Congressman to Investigate Anti-Doping Agency

 

Has our Republican-controlled House of Representatives found its next Planned Parenthood to defund or is this latest development in the Lance Armstrong doping "conspiracy" just another example of an elected official looking out for the interests of a constituent?

 

Late yesterday both Velo News and Cycling News reported the involvement of Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner in the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong.  Representative Sensenbrenner has called on the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to investigate the activities of the USADA and how it spends its $9 million in annual taxpayer funding.

The GOP rep fired off a letter to the ONDCP regarding USADA oversight in general and the Lance Armstrong investigation in specific.  The letter pretty much summarizes Lance's objections to the USADA's investigation and could very well serve as a press release in the court of public opinion.  It is required reading for anyone who wishes to debate this case.

It should be noted that Congressman Sensenbrenner represents the district where Trek Bicycles is headquartered and that the people of Trek are his constituents.  The reputation of Trek Bicycles - Lance's longtime sponsor - could very well be tarnished should Lance be stripped of his 7 TDF titles.

Whether an elected official should get this involved in a specific action of a tangential agency is certainly a separate topic for debate.  Personally, I think it's an abuse of power that only underscores the bought-and-paid-for perception of the Citizens United era of democracy...

It bears reiterating that there is a lot at stake if the USADA is allowed to strip Lance Armstrong of his 7 TDF victories through its arbitration process.  First, of course, is the relinquishing of the wins, followed by the return of the prize money and the rewriting of the past 13 years of US bicycle racing history.

If you were to sum it all up in one word, that word would be disgraced.

Lance would be disgraced, as would the cancer charity that bears his name.  His US Postal, Discovery, and Radio Shack teammates would be disgraced - even if none of them were sanctioned in a similar manner.  Trek Bicycles and Lance's longtime sponsors and all the other organizations that paid him to endorse their products would be disgraced.  US bicycle racing and all the clean professional and amateur riders who participate would be disgraced.

The activity of bicycling would be tainted in the eyes of much of the American public.

If you read the published remarks of the USADA's Travis Tygart - including his response to Sensenbrenner's letter to the ONDCP - there is no question that he believes Lance is guilty.  He is fully invested in the conspiracy theory and is behaving as if the ruling of any arbitration panel is a foregone conclusion.

Tygart tries to reassure the public that Lance will get a fair hearing, yet he fails to convince us with statements like this one; "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."

When will we get to see this "overwhelming" evidence?  Are there failed drug tests from 1999 to 2005?  Videotapes or photos?  Taped phone conversations?  Confiscated substances?  Or is the case based on corroboration of former teammates who are not being sanctioned in exchange for their testimony?

Regardless of how any one of us may feel about Lance - guilty, not guily, undecided, or indifferent - we each need to question the fairness of this process.

Does the USADA have an obligation to bring forth this hearing regardless of the amount of time lapsed?  Has the USADA exceeded its statute of limitations?  Does it have jurisdiction over this matter or must that jurisdiction be specifically granted to it from WADA or UCI?  Can the USADA initiate its own investigation without a positive drug test?

If, as reported in Cycling News, the USADA has suspicions about Lance's test results from 2008 to 2012, can it retroactively investigate the period of 1998 - 2007 without similar discrepancies in blood tests from the prior period?  Does it have the authority to strip Lance of his titles without actual physical evidence?

Make no mistake about it, Lance Armstrong is in the fight of his life.

Lance is pulling out all of the stops and using every tactic at his disposal - much like he did when he was racing.  He has a lawsuit pending in Federal court.  He has his sponsor's Congressman calling for an oversight investigation.  He has indirectly made his case in the court of public opinion.

What happens should the court challenge fail, the oversight threat fizzle, and the arbitration hearing go forward?

We will know the answer to those questions in 28 days or less.

My prediction is that the court will dismiss Lance's suit or rule in favor of the USADA.  Congressman Sensenbrenner will be unsuccessful in intimidating Tygart into backing off.  Lance will enlist the support of the UCI to shut down the USADA investigation before the arbitration is allowed to begin.

At the end of the day, the UCI can't allow itself to be put on trial in the court of public opinion.

The international popularity of bicycle racing is at stake.  Sponsorship dollars and broadcast rights will not be jeopardized by a lone pseudo-bureaucrat playing the role of the Solicitor General in the Supreme Court of his own imagination.  This isn't a RICO case and he's not saving the free world from a conspiracy of high-level corruption.

This is professional bicycle racing.

And while I welcome your comments regarding this controversial issue, I would rather be shining a light on everyday bicycling - writing summaries of the chainlink's event calendar, providing commentary on MAP-21, posting reviews of trails like the Chicago Area's Des Plaines River Trail, or sharing my thoughts on the upcoming RAGBRAI ride.   Maybe next week...

Keep riding and be safe.

 

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    The UCI has no authority or power to stop USADA. The UCI is a party to the World Anti Doping Code through WADA. All the UCI could do (which it did), was delay delivery of data it had collected to other agencies, including WADA and USADA.

    -dB

  • In reply to David Brower:

    David, thanks for posting this.

    While this may be the case, Armstrong is effectively arguing that UCI is the only organization that has authority over him. Ultimately, UCI will be put in the position of stripping Armstrong's titles and certifying new race winners based on the unprecedented actions of USADA.

    Keep in mind that this is my personal prediction for the course of the events to come.

    An attorney that responds and comments here has pointed out that the Federal judge is obligated to allow the arbitration to go through and doubts that the USADA can be classified as a government agency, negating its obligation to uphold Lance's right to due process. For these reasons, I have my doubts that Lance's lawyers will prevail in court.

    I also have my doubts that Sensenbrenner's call for increased oversight of the USADA will intimidate Tygart - he seems pretty intent on bringing down Armstrong.

    The UCI has to be concerned with cycling's image after the Contador case. In no other sport do they go back and alter results so far after the fact. Changing a race result 13 years later based on an investigation outside its own statute of limitations will be quite embarrassing. I personally doubt that the UCI will want to be put into that position...

    Tygart has no intention of revealing his witnesses or offering Armstrong the opportunity to present a true defense to an impartial jury. Tygart has him charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced before Lance has even had the opportunity to answer the complaint. Tygart relishes the thought of an appeals court - the CAS - challenging his findings.

    I can't see the UCI allowing this crusader to take down bicycle racing...

  • In reply to David Brower:

    UPDATE to my earlier reply - From the WADA website regarding sanctions by ADO's (USADA would be considered one):

    "WADA is not involved in the disciplinary process until after the results management and sanctioning of the athlete are completed by the NADO (National Anti Doping Organization) / IF (International Federation). This includes any internal appeal or review of a national decision by its IF.

    WADA’s role is to assess the sanctioning process followed by the relevant ADO following the completion of the process. Should WADA have any concerns about the process or the result, WADA may exercise its right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). WADA has a right of appeal to CAS for cases under the jurisdiction of organizations that have implemented the Code."

    If I read this correctly, the UCI could review USADA's sanction internally and presumably set it aside or not act upon it. If the UCI goes forward with the sanction, WADA, as well as Lance, could appeal it to the CAS.

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    http://www.etsy.com/listing/101448395/freelance-t-shirt-from-okona-apparel FREE LANCE!

  • fb_avatar

    I find the whole process extremely disturbing. How the USADA, which was formed in 2000 as a US agency, can claim authority to strip international cycling titles awarded before it even existed is a clear indication they are abusing their power. I suspect collusion between the DOJ and the USADA in that the DOJ fraud investigation was a ruse to get subpoena power to coerce cyclists to testify, and that it was never intended to indict Armstrong on criminal charges. That was clear harassment and abuse of power by the federal government. As for pressuring others to testify, if they told me that they could hound me just like they hound Lance and get witnesses to testify against me, even absent positive drug tests, and ban me from sports, I'd pretty much have to say what they wanted since their burden of proof is so scant and they are accountable to no one.

  • In reply to Metoga:

    Thanks for commenting - excellent points!

    Without the USADA identifying those that have made allegations against Lance (to Lance, not the public), it's difficult to know what type of deals were made. One thing is certain - there are at least four racers that could have testified against him that are currently racing in this year's TdF who obviously were not banned.

    Were they coerced? Were they given immunity in exchange for their testimony? Is this fair to Lance? Is this fair to all the "other" athletes who must strictly abide by USADA's rules (the one this investigation is purporting to protect)?

    Sensenbrenner's letter points out that the USADA wasn't sanctioned before 2000 and that it has an 8-year statute of limitations. Using the "conspiracy" angle puts the USADA on shaky ground, but Tygart obviously doesn't care because once his ruling is announced, it will be up to Lance to appeal it to the CAS. Tygart will have made his mark.

    I would like to know what is motivating Tygart and what he hopes to gain by bringing down Armstrong and US bicycle racing. If he were solely after the truth and making an example of every athlete who cheats or conspires to cheat, he would have to sanction every team member without exception. His selective enforcement approach, his questionable authority, and the implementation of an arbitration process that wasn't designed for issuing a violation in the absence of a positive test result is suspect.

    I don't blame Lance for challenging this with every means at his disposal. There is an element of fairness that is missing from all this...

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    Will Armstrong find a legitimate proceeding which insures due process with CAS or is it another kangaroo court that changed it's rules to suit it's ambitions?

    I

  • Ross, thanks for the inquiry. I did a little checking up on the process.

    Lance is delaying accepting the sanction that USADA has in store for him. Should the Federal court rule against him (failing to enjoin the USADA) and the sanction is announced, he will have the opportunity to appeal it to an arbitration panel with members from the American Arbitration Association and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

    If that fails, he can appeal it directly to the CAS, which serves as the International Supreme Court for sport. Based on the Contador case, the athlete has to provide proof that he DID NOT dope - guilty until proven innocent.

    I need to investigate to see if any athlete has been found guilty beyond the expiration of the statute of limitations or from a sanction not related to the failure of a drug test. This may be uncharted territory for Lance's defense.

    From what I have read, Lance can prevail upon the UCI to not accept the USADA's sanction. He can also encourage the WADA to appeal his sanction to the CAS on his behalf should the UCI allow the sanction to stand.

    Whether the CAS will allow Lance to put on a proper, American court-style defense is doubtful. He won't be able to compel his accusers to appear before the board without subpoena power (which the CAS doesn't have).

    Since the burden of proof is his, he will not only have to disprove the USADA's allegations, he will have to discredit their means of arriving at the sanction. The jury is out - so to speak - as to how the CAS will ponder the evidence and whether or not reasonable doubt will even factor into its decision.

    It's easy to see why he wants to avoid the sanction being announced at all costs...

  • This is a great dialogue. While I probably believe that Lance was doing something, I also think that at this stage, pretty irrelevant. I want to see some evidence. If he was tested 5-10 times during each of those tours, those are the definitive pieces of evidence. Without definitive evidence, the TDF organizers, UCI etc etc, have not been able to do anything. While not necessarily signing up to the "if you ain't cheating you ain't racing" concept, I don't see why one would be held accountable decades after the fact, save in Murder cases and maybe a few others. Cycling...No.
    I do think this eventually becomes about whether USADA is a government body or not, and since it receives federal funding...And I very much agree that UCI has a lot to lose in this one. I woudl add that the potential for teh 98-2005 years to be dismissed and only the 09-10 tests that are abnormal, not above the limit but abnormal, might be used as a current Doping charge.

  • In reply to Foot01:

    Thanks for joining in the discussion.

    Looking over USADA's and WADA's results management guides, it seems clear that their respective procedures were designed around the failure of a doping test. An investigation of a "conspiracy theory" appears to be uncharted territory.

    If Lance is successful in his lawsuit to define USADA as a government body and force the agency to follow due process, it could not only be a victory for him, but a major change in athletes' rights that could have both positive and negative implications for years to come.

    We will know if the court is willing to "go there" sometime during the next four weeks.

    You bring up a good point about both the '98-'07 years, as well as the '08 - '12 period. It's quite possible that Tygart would be content sanctioning him for the last 4 years if Lance admitted (privately) that he was part of a conspiracy during the championship era. But Lance can't even take the risk of meeting with him...

  • And how do we place Hope Solo's recent postive test for a banned substance, subsequent 'stern' warning and still allowing her to go the Olympics (where they are being touted as 'the most ever tested event, ever") by the USADA?

    And how does the USADA justify (theoretically) that it is allowing 4 athletes with Doping 'convictions' participate in the TDF.

    As I think about this, somewhere that Judge (and why would Lance not go to a more friendly court), is going to have to agree that due process has to be followed even by the USADA. The fundemental right to face my accusers cannot be thrown out by the USADA.

    Everything about this cries out for some other reason than anti-doping. Maybe the guy who hypothesized about collusion between Fed Prosecutors and the USADA is onto something.

  • Brent,

    One more.....The conspiracy thing is bizzare. These organizations get away with their oversight through Physical evidence, worlwide.

    USADA has been a good oversight when using positive test results.

  • In reply to Foot01:

    More great points!

    I agree - USADA has been good oversight when handling positive test results. That's why WADA has authorized these National Anti-Doping Organizations to test on their behalf. The process is fair to all who submit to the tests and those that fail the tests. It's the allegations that aren't the result of a failed test that need to be clarified.

    I like to compare the sanctioning process in the absence of a failed test to the Fugitive Slave Law. This was bad legislation - giving all the power to the accuser. Sport can't ensure fairness when jilted competitors are allowed to make unsubstantiated allegations and force the accused to prove that he or she did NOT commit the offense in question. Due process is necessary in these situations.

    I'm not familiar with Hope Solo's case, but I am suspicious that 4 "alleged admitted dopers" are permitted to ride in this year's TdF in exchange for testifying against a single "alleged doper" who no longer races...

    Proving a conspiracy in sport should be held up to the same burden of proof required in a court of law and the defendant should be allowed to put on a full defense.

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    Maybe I'm an optimist, but I believe Lance Armstrong's lawsuit will put the stop to USADA's attempt to discredit him. Statue of limitation alone is a very serious breach of their own rules and warrants judgement against that agency. Everything else goes from there. It needs to be noted that the first reaction of Judge in Texas was the correct one. Much of that 111 page long suit was too wordy and not to the point. But now it is different. I think in 25 pages Lance Team presented strong case that will focus on essentials, and actually that Judge, by rejecting the first version, did Armstrong a favor by eliminating a possibility of censoring content later. Go Lance.

  • In reply to Wieslaw Bednarski:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The more I read up on the USADA and the results management process, the more I agree with Lance's legal challenge in Federal court. While the procedure outlined for dealing with a positive test result seems fair, I can't find a procedure for dealing with allegations from other parties and a precedent for the "conspiracy" sanction.

    If an athlete agrees to be tested and abide by the outlined procedure should a positive test result occur - it doesn't mean he or she agrees to follow that same procedure if misconduct is alleged by fellow athletes. Allowing anecdote and innuendo as the basis for athlete sanctions is patently unfair in a system where the burden of proof is on the athlete and not the ADO.

    I hope Lance is successful in getting the USADA classified as a government agency and forcing them to prosecute their case as our legal system requires. Tygart may still go through with it, but at least Lance will know who his accusers are and be allowed to present a proper defense.

    The judge enjoining the USADA on the grounds of a lapsed statute of limitations would be good for Lance, but ultimately would do nothing to prevent the USADA from targeting other athletes in the future.

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    Statue of limitation would be some beginning, not enough, yes, but it would show that USADA overreach can be stopped. The judge should address also the issue of "evidence" within the limits of the statue of limitations. What evidence was gathered and how. How did they obtained samples of those tests that show doping. etc. There's no independent evaluation of their "evidence" and that complicates the issue. The judge will have to decide if that is admissible.

    Logically, if the evidence came from some other source than USADA that would be the subject of some existing record, which is not the case knowing that positives were never found before. So, I believe it is USADA's internally relied upon evidence that has lesser weight than independent tests. Knowing that, the judge could say, "hey, guys, where is a corroborated evidence outside of your own?" They can't show it. So, he'll have an issue with that and probably deciding that there's not enough evidence based on the test samples by USADA. Overwhelmingly, and statistically, it can be argued that in the absence of positive tests together with large number of negative tests, the odds are favoring Lance. If the judge is impartial he will see that. He'll take just common sense approach. I believe.

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