The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s independent anti-doping review board ruled there is sufficient evidence of doping violations for the agency to pursue charges against retired seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and five former team members, according to a letter sent to the accused from USADA and a statement from the agency.
The case will proceed to a hearing in front of the American Arbitration Association, unless Armstrong or the other accused attempt to take the matter to federal court. In a statement, Robert D. Luskin, Armstrong’s Washington-based attorney, said Armstrong would consider all of his legal options.
Armstrong has until July 9 to request the arbitration hearing, which would take place before November, the letter said.
USADA said in a June 12 charging letter to Armstrong that it would seek as much as a lifetime competition ban. Though Armstrong is retired from cycling, he recently has competed in Ironman triathlons and masters swimming. USADA alleges Armstrong, cycling coach Johan Bruyneel, Italian doctor Michele Ferrari and three team associates participated in a massive doping conspiracy for more than a decade.
Armstrong’s attorneys had argued in written submissions to the review board that USADA did not have jurisdiction in the matter and had provided no evidence of any doping violations by Armstrong.
“There is not one shred of credible evidence to support USADA’s charges and an unbroken record of more than 500 to 600 clean tests over more than a decade and a half to refute it,” Luskin said in a statement Friday. “In its zeal to punish Lance, USADA has sacrificed the very principles of fair play that it was created to safeguard. It has compiled a disgraceful record of arrogance, secrecy, disregard for its own protocols, shabby science, and contempt for due process.”
Said USADA in a statement: “All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath, and an independent group of arbitrators would ultimately decide the outcome of the case.”
One of the three review board members, Minneapolis attorney Clark Griffith, played down the board’s role in examining evidence of doping, saying “evaluation is too strong of a word.”
“We don’t evaluate the evidence in terms of how the evidence would be evaluated in a trial,” Griffith said by cellphone. “Don’t overstate this. This is nobody saying anybody is guilty of anything. The people who do the heavy lifting are the arbitration panel, if it’s ever empaneled.”
Earlier in the day, Armstrong used his Twitter account to mock the choice of Griffith for the review board. In June, Griffith, 70, entered an Alford plea to charges of indecent exposure involving a 24-year-old woman, which meant he asserted his innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. Griffith told The Washington Post he was not guilty and the charges were “set for dismissal.”