Lance Armstrong refiles USADA suit; team members decline arbitration, receive lifetime bans
By Amy Shipley,
Lance Armstrong filed a revised lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency before the close of business Tuesday, once again asking a federal judge in Austin to stop the agency from stripping his seven Tour de France titles and banning him from sport for life if he fails to agree by Saturday to submit to arbitration over alleged doping violations.
A day after U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks dismissed Armstrong’s first complaint about six hours after it was filed, chastising his legal team for using sensational language and inflammatory elements in its 80 pages, Armstrong submitted a 25-page brief that more sparely restated the claims made Monday.
In the filing in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas, Armstrong asked the judge to prevent USADA from taking any action Saturday, the deadline the agency has given him to decide whether to fight its claim that he participated for more than a decade in a wide-ranging doping conspiracy. If Armstrong refuses arbitration, the agency will immediately strip his titles and enact the ban.
Armstrong claims the arbitration process is corrupt and rigged and will deny him his rights of due process.
“Either choice is certain to result in Mr. Armstrong incurring a lifetime suspension from international and elite domestic competition, the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles, and irreparable reputational damage,” his complaint stated.
Earlier Tuesday, USADA announced that three former non-riding members of Armstrong’s professional cycling teams — who were charged along with Armstrong in a June 15 letter — received lifetime competition bans after they informed USADA they would not participate in the arbitration.
None of the three confessed to any role in doping, USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart said in a phone interview.
Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, Spanish doctor Luis Garcia del Moral and Spanish trainer Jose “Pepi” Marti were banned for life from sanctioned sports events for providing and administering banned performance-enhancing drugs to riders on Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, the agency said in a release.
Armstrong, who has never tested positive despite having been tested more than 500 times during his career, has denied any involvement in doping.
Tygart said the decisions of Ferrari, Garcia del Moral and Marti to decline to pursue arbitration did not represent an admission of guilt, but Tygart said “they know the truth. They know the evidence we would have presented under oath and that they would have confronted, and they chose the alternative: They are not going to participate.”
In its charging letter, USADA claimed it had 10 witnesses who had “firsthand” knowledge of doping violations.
Tygart added that the trio “perpetuated one of the worst doping conspiracies in sport . . . and they received the consequences of that: A lifetime ban from sport.”
In his filing, Armstrong complains that USADA does not have jurisdiction to bring charges against him, because his contracts to compete in cycling were with UCI, the international cycling federation. UCI claims responsibility for doping matters at its events and with its cyclists, the complaint states.
Armstrong’s brief further argues that USADA, a quasi-government agency, is effectively a state actor since it participated in a two-year federal criminal probe into doping claims against Armstrong that was officially closed in February. That designation means Armstrong is owed certain constitutional protections that USADA’s arbitration system denies, the complaint contends.
The complaint also says Sparks’s court should have jurisdiction and claims that USADA broke its own rules in charging Armstrong, making deals with witnesses that go against the World Anti-Doping Agency code and ignoring its eight-year statute of limitations to bring doping claims.
USADA has repeatedly said in statements that its adjudication process is a fair one that has been approved by various members of the Olympic movement, including athletes, and that accused athletes have an opportunity to defend themselves in arbitration hearings that can be open at the athlete’s request.
USADA’s release outlined its charges against the three men banned for life: It said that Ferrari was brought to U.S. Postal Service team training camps in the United States and provided an olive oil and testosterone mixture to riders that was designed to aid with recovery and taught riders how to use the endurance-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO); and Garcia del Moral and Marti assisted with blood transfusions and provided riders banned drugs included EPO and human growth hormone.