Tag Archives: Floyd Landis

The Case Against Lance Armstrong

From Time Magazine’s blog.  It’s not that strong of a case.

When the U.S. Attorney dropped its fraud case against Lance Armstrong earlier this year, the response from the Texan was a muted let’s-just-get-on-with-our–lives statement. There was no jubilation after the multi-year, multi-million dollar investigation collapsed, because the Armstrong camp knew that the U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was lurking. USADA, “the independent anti-doping agency for Olympic related sport in the United States” was tailgating witnesses and evidence from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

USADA has become Armstrong’s new Ahab. USADA is charging him with basically leading a doping gang, dating to the mid-1990s, that allowed him to roll up seven Tour de France wins. Several doctors and trainers on Armstrong teams, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Radio Shack, have also been targeted, including team manager Johan Bruyneel. Armstrong called the allegations a “witch hunt,” and reasserted his innocence.  “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,” he said in a statement. That’s a reference to the unexpected, and ultimately doping-aided victories that some of his accusers have achieved, as opposed to his consistent winning record. ”Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me,” said. The clear implication is that he obviously doesn’t consider USADA to be capable of fairness—which the agency denies.

One immediate consequence is that Armstrong is barred from competing as a triathlete in sanctioned events; he already won an event and was scheduled to compete in an Ironman race in France. There’s a presumption of innocence, according to USADA, but it does not extend to participation.

This is not a criminal case, although USADA will seek to prove Armstrong is a cheat by using some of the evidence that the U.S. Attorney had available— evidence that the U.S. Attorney decided couldn’t win a criminal case for fraud. That’s significant, because to prove the fraud case the government essentially had to prove that Armstrong was doping. The government dropped the case despite testimony from former Armstrong confederates such as Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, who have said they used banned substances and said Armstrong did likewise. USADA also says it has blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions,” although these same samples were found to be clean by cycling authorities when first tested. Armstrong’s attorney, Robert Luskin, has demanded the agency provide the names of witnesses,  as well as the blood tests, according to USA Today.

Armstrong’s biggest problem could be that USADA has a different standard of culpability than does the U.S. Constitution. Instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, USADA’s standard of guilt is “clear and concise” evidence, in the judgment of an independent arbitration panel that would be handed the case. It’s a potentially lower bar, which is why Armstrong has criticized USADA’s “star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later.” USADA’s arbitration panel, for instance, can credit witnesses that the U.S. Attorney decided not to put on the witness stand.

Time has more

Armstrong is a ferociously competitive beast, but faced with a process he saw as blatantly unfair and stacked against him, he refused to take part in an arbitration with USADA over the charges. For example, USADA, the agency that handles drug testing and enforcement for Olympic-level and other elite athletes who compete in global events like the Tour, refused to provide the names of the dozen witnesses slated to testify against him, as is required in U.S. courts. “From the beginning, we have challenged USADA’s motives, methods and authority to proceed with a so-called conspiracy charge against Mr. Armstrong,” his attorneys said in a statement.

USADA has long insisted, over the course of increasingly vituperative exchanges between the two parties, that Armstrong is refusing to take part in an arbitration procedure that he had a part in creating and that he, as an international cyclist, had agreed to follow.  “As is every athlete’s right,” USADA said in a statement, “if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge. He chose not to do this, knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place.” Armstrong says jurisdiction of his case belongs to the Union Cycliste Internationale, not to USADA.

With Armstrong’s decision not to arbitrate, his victories have vanished, although not necessarily his legacy as the founder of LiveStrong, the cancer advocacy group that is nearly 15 years old. Certainly, his legend as a cyclist, once tainted, is forever scarred. It was a great one too.  Surviving a cancer that had spread from his testicle to his lungs and brain, Armstrong returned to cycling and dominated the Tour for six years, first as the leader of the U.S. Postal team and later for teams at Discovery Channel, Astana and Radio Shack. He raised cycling’s profile in the States and magnified the Tour’s significance. But according to USADA, Armstrong was also the leader of a doping conspiracy that since 1999 obtained and shared PEDs such as erythropoietin (EPO) and human growth hormone (HGH).

There is this.

Armstrong’s attorneys tried desperately to head off the USADA case by filing suit in federal court in Texas, alleging that USADA’s adjudication system didn’t afford due process. But U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks threw the case out twice. The first time, he scolded the Armstrong team for trying to use U.S. courts to vent its criticism of the USADA investigation. But he threw out the revised suit with some reluctance and was critical of USADA’s behavior. Some of USADA’s procedures, such as its charging letter, wouldn’t pass muster in federal court, he said, but the federal court had no business in the court of sport. In one note, cited by Armstrong’s attorneys, Sparks said, “Among the Court’s concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after his alleged doping violations occurred.” He pointed out that USADA also charged people along with Armstrong, such as team doctors and managers, over whom it had no jurisdiction.

When the federal court threw out his suit, Armstrong figured he had no chance in USADA’s court. The agency that had been after him for more than 10 years now stood, in his view, as judge, jury and executioner. So Armstrong, for perhaps the first and only time in his career, decided not to compete. In his view, he’s already ahead 560 to 0. Instead, he will take his case to the court of public opinion.  And there we can all judge him.