USADA keeps pressure on Lance Armstrong, bans former teammates

July 10, 2012

Lance Armstrong waited more than three weeks before filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in response to the group’s June accusation that the seven-time Tour de France champion was a part of a serious doping scandal. But only hours after it was filed Monday, a judge dismissed the suit and chastised Armstrong’s legal team in the process. As The Post’s Amy Shipley reported:

In a tersely worded three-page response to Armstrong’s 80-page brief and request for a temporary restraining order against USADA, which in June accused the seven-time Tour de France champion of engaging in a massive sports doping conspiracy, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks gave Armstrong’s legal team 20 days to refile the complaint.

The judge, raising the threat of sanctions if future pleadings did not meet the required format, advised Armstrong’s attorneys to “omit any improper argument, rhetoric, or irrelevant material” from the amended brief. Armstrong’s Austin-based attorney, Tim Herman, said early Monday night the lawsuit would be refiled by Wednesday at the latest.

“We will refile in a format that conforms to what Judge Sparks wants,” Herman said in a phone interview. “Obviously, I would have preferred not to have the order — I’d be lying if I said otherwise — but Judge Sparks is very straightforward, to say the least. When he speaks, I listen.”

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas before 10 a.m. Monday, Armstrong alleged that USADA and chief executive Travis Tygart had engaged in an obsessive, unlawful and meritless campaign to strip him of his Tour titles and ruin his legacy.

But Sparks dismissed the complaint within about six hours, noting that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure requires a short and plain statement of the basis for the court’s jurisdiction and the plaintiff’s legal claim for relief.

“Armstrong’s complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts,” Sparks wrote. “Worse, the bulk of the paragraphs contain ‘allegations’ that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong’s claims — and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of the case, and to incite public opinion against the Defendants.”

The USADA brought formal doping charges against Armstrong in a 15-page letter sent in mid-June that banned the cyclist from competition in Ironman triathlons. As Amy Shipley reported:

In the 15-page charging letter obtained by The Washington Post, USADA outlined new allegations against Armstrong, saying it collected blood samples from him in 2009 and 2010 that were “fully consistent with blood ma­nipu­la­tion including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”

The charges represent the latest chapter in a long-running saga over whether Armstrong used banned substances during a cycling career that, along with his successful battle against testicular cancer, made him a national hero. Though for years Armstrong has successfully fended off challenges to his legacy, the action by USADA this week represents perhaps the most serious threat because of the anti-doping agency’s unique position of authority in the athletic drug-testing world.

The 12-year-old agency, which is funded jointly by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the federal government, almost never loses cases, though few athletes have the financial means or iconic status of Armstrong.

Armstrong has never tested positive for drugs, and on Wednesday he vehemently denied the USADA charges.

“I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one,” Armstrong said in a statement released by his publicist. “That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me.”

The drama continued to unfold Tuesday when three former non-riding members of Armstrong’s teams received lifetime competition bans from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after they declined to submit to arbitration in the Armstrong case. As Amy Shipley reported:

USADA announced Tuesday that 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 three were charged by the agency in June along with Armstrong and two other non-riders with participating in a massive doping conspiracy over more than a decade.

Armstrong has denied any involvement in doping and is contesting the charges. One of his attorneys said Monday he would refile a complaint in U.S. federal court by Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order barring USADA from moving forward with arbitration in Armstrong’s case. Armstrong’s original complaint was dismissed Monday because the judge assigned to the case said it did not fit required the format.

The deadline for all of the charged to indicate whether they will submit to arbitration is Saturday.

Tygart said during a phone interview Tuesday that Ferrari, Garcia del Moral and Marti — who along with Armstrong were charged in a June 15 letter — received the bans after informing USADA they would not pursue arbitration. Though that choice did not represent an admission of guilt, 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.”

More coverage of Lance Armstrong and the USADA charges:

Lance Armstrong’s suit against USADA dismissed

Document: Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit against USADA

Three Armstrong team members decline arbitration, receive lifetime bans

Armstrong faces fresh doping charges from USADA

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