A federal judge dismissed Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit against the US Anti-Doping Agency on Monday, allowing the agency’s doping case against him to move forward.
Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, had challenged the agency’s jurisdiction over his case and said that the agency deprived him of due process when it charged him with doping and playing a key role in systematic doping on his teams. He faces the loss of his Tour titles and a lifetime ban from competing in Olympic sports.
Judge Sam Sparks of US District Court for the Western District of Texas, in Austin, who acknowledged that the case had “troubling aspects,” said the US courts should not be involved because the anti-doping agency’s arbitration rules were robust enough to deal with the matter. He also said Armstrong had agreed to be governed by those rules when he signed for his cycling license.
“Federal courts should not interfere with an amateur sports organization’s disciplinary procedures unless the organization shows wanton disregard for its rules, to the immediate and irreparable harm of a plaintiff, where the plaintiff has no other available remedy,” Sparks said in his ruling. “To hold otherwise would be to turn federal judges into referees for a game in which they have no place, and about which they know little.”
Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, can challenge Sparks’ decision by appealing to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals. He also can accept the penalties or challenge them in arbitration. He has until midnight Eastern on Thursday to inform the anti-doping agency of his intentions.
Tim Herman, one of Armstrong’s lawyers, said in a statement that Armstrong’s legal team was “reviewing the court’s lengthy opinion and considering Mr. Armstrong’s options.”
Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the anti-doping agency, said he was pleased with the ruling.
“The rules in place have protected the rights of athletes for over a decade in every case USADA has adjudicated and we look forward to a timely, public arbitration hearing in this case, should Mr. Armstrong choose,” Tygart said in a statement.
In his ruling, Sparks scolded the anti-doping agency for the “woefully inadequate” charging letter it sent to Armstrong that contained information “so vague and unhelpful it would not pass muster in any court in the United States.” He said the anti-doping agency promised to give Armstrong more detailed information about the charges at a time reasonably before any arbitration hearing.
Sparks also expressed his concern over the conflicts between the anti-doping agency and the International Cycling Union, which goes by the initials UCI after its name in French. He said the agency had an “apparent single-minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate the charges against him, in direct conflict with UCI’s equally evident desire not to proceed against him.”
‘’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, calling it “perplexing” that the entities, including USA Cycling, could not figure out how to proceed with Armstrong’s case.
‘’However, if these bodies wish to damage the image of their sport through bitter infighting, they will have to do so without the involvement of the United States courts,” he wrote.
The New York Times Service