NEW YORK — Cycling’s international governing body is trying to block the case American anti-doping officials filed against Lance Armstrong, saying there may be a lack of due process and that witnesses were promised “advantages” in exchange for incriminating statements against the seven-time Tour de France winner.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency brought charges of performance-enhancing drug use againstArmstrong in June, threatening to strip him of his victories. A federal grand jury investigation of the cyclist ended four months earlier without any indictments.
Armstrong repeatedly has proclaimed his innocence and sued in federal court in Austin, Texas, claiming USADA rules violate athletes’ constitutional right to a fair trial.
In a testy exchange of letters made public Friday as part of the court case, the International Cycling Union (UCI) proposed that it appoint an independent panel to determine whether the charges against Armstrong have merit. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency responded there should instead be a “Truth And Reconciliation Commission to clean up the sport of cycling once and for all.”
“UCI and the participants in the conspiracy who cheated sport with dangerous performance enhancing drugs to win have a strong incentive to cover up what transpired,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “The participants in the conspiracy have lashed out in the press, gone to Congress and filed a lawsuit to avoid a public display of the evidence before neutral judges. Efforts to intimidate, scare or pressure us to conceal the truth will not stop us from doing the job we are mandated to do.”
USADA claims it has jurisdiction, citing UCI rules, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency. USADA said having the UCI in charge of the case would be “the fox guarding the hen house” and that UCI has “conflicting interests” because it doesn’t want to jeopardize corporate support and it has filed a defamation suit against former Armstrongteammate Floyd Landis, who has publicly accused Armstrong of drug use.
Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Armstrong, countered in a statement Friday that “UCI has confirmed that it has exclusive jurisdiction over the allegations against Lance Armstrong and has instructed USADA to stop its proceedings.”
“All of the charges in USADA’s complaint concern UCI international competitions or UCI-administered tests,” Luskin said. “It is time for USADA to take its own advice, follow the rules applicable to all elite international cyclists and allow UCI to proceed.”
UCI President Patrick McQuaid wrote July 13 to USADA, claiming the Switzerland-based cycling group has jurisdiction and USADA does not.
“The UCI is the only test results management authority, as these are UCI tests,” McQuaid said in his letter.
McQuaid said that because Armstrong has not been provided the evidence, “UCI does not feel comfortable” with the USADA case, “especially if such things which it finds problematic in terms of due process and even in terms of ethics are pushed through by pleading the rules of the UCI.
“This is particularly worrisome in this case because it is said to be based on witness statements only,” McQuaid said. “UCI has no other information than that potential witnesses were approached by USADA and that advantages were promised in return for incriminating statements. This is problematic as well.”
That letter prompted an angry response by USADA.
“This is a complete ‘about face’ from the UCI’s prior public statements regarding this case within the past month,” USADA general counsel William Bock III wrote in a 14-page letter to McQuaid on July 26. “You were correct in the first media statements that you made in which you opined that USADA is the correct results management authority and can impose sanctions in these cases.”
Bock said UCI’s initial public statements “reflect a waiver of any right by the UCI to conduct results management in this case” and that USADA has authority conferred upon it by the U.S. Olympic Committee and by UCI’s anti-doping rules.
Citing the 2007 report on drug use in baseball by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, which claimed the sport was ineffective at policing itself, Bock wrote “the evidence is even stronger that cycling under the management of the UCI has been enmeshed in its own EPO and blood doping era.
“By our count, of the 21 podium finishers at the Tour de France during the period from 1999-2005, only a single rider other than Mr. Armstrong was not implicated in doping by a subsequent investigation. Yet, only a single one of these riders had a positive test with the UCI.”
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks gave Armstrong’s lawyers until the end of Friday to file their response to USADA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit after an argument over whether the cyclist’s legal team had missed a deadline.