Armstrong and USADA
Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Wed Jun 13 2012
How is the typical triathlon enthusiast supposed to feel about this? I'm not the sport's ombudsman, nor anyone's grandpa, nor even—depending on who you talk to—wise. But I'll give it a shot anyway.
What Lance Armstrong does in his fight against cancer is immaterial to his comportment as a professional athlete. People are not ethically monolithic. John F. Kennedy cheated on his wife and was true to his country. Richard M. Nixon was true to his wife and cheated on his country. It is possible for Lance Armstrong to be a saint and a sinner. Lord knows that describes most of us. Lance's fight against cancer does not earn him a get-out-of-jail-free card. He must complete the course. He must not draft. He must not litter. He must buckle his helmet (ahem!). And he must not dope.
I'm a process guy. If there is anything to American exceptionalism, it is this: We have an unusually admirable attachment to process. Imagine any other country in the world working through the presidential election of 2004 as seamlessly as this country did. We behaved so well because we are a country of laws, not men. Our processes trump our personalities.
If Lance is righteously popped, end of story. That's our process. We must abide by it, honor it, and live with it. Lance should be banned from triathlon for the requisite time period, and WTC should not make an exception in his case (not that it would).
Still, I think the onus is on USADA to lay out the case. I'd like to express here some things that bother me. Travis Tygart, who is USADA's front man and someone who we've interviewed here, is a lawyer by trade. Therefore, he knows the difference between evidence and rumor. According to today's Post article referenced above, the 15-page letter sent to Armstrong by USADA informing him of the investigation contains the allegation by "Martial Saugy, the director of an anti-doping lab in Switzerland, [who] stated that Armstrong's urine sample results from the 2001 Tour of Switzerland indicated EPO use." But the Post article further recounts an interview it conducted with Saugy last year, in which Saugy stated that the sample was merely "suspicious," and that "We did not do the additional analysis. It will never be sufficient to say, in fact, it was positive… I will never go in front of a court with that type of thing."
In short—and in consideration of both claims above—if WADA's Code does not consider these as righteous, lawful evidence of doping infractions then (just as with the 1999 frozen urine samples allegedly demonstrating the presence of EPO), this isn't evidence. It doesn't exist. It never happened. Period. That's our process.
If Lance Armstrong is guilty of doping in sport, I hope he’s banned. If he’s guilty and the only way to enforce a ban on him is through a bogus process, I hope he’s not banned, because then our process suffers. If he’s not guilty, then, he should enjoy the luxury of his rightful liberty to lead his life as he wishes, and we’ll enjoy the privilege of watching him race in the sport we love.
Just, let's remember that Lance Armstrong is not the only one bound by WADA's Code. USADA is not only a signatory to the Code, WADA and the USOC have bestowed upon USADA the job of sole defender in the United States of the Code. USADA cannot be opaque with its case against Armstrong, nor play fast and loose with the very Code its job is to enforce.
[An earlier version of this opinion piece incorrectly stated that USADA "issued an immediate ban." This is untrue. USADA began a formal process that would result in an eventual ban. The only ban so far levied is a ban by WTC enjoining Armstrong from competing in its races, per the athlete agreement all its pro athletes must sign as a condition of competition.]
It has been reported in that Lance Armstrong "is banned from competing in triathlon," and that, "USADA suspends Armstrong over doping investigation." Not so. 6.13.12
World Triathlon Corporation's infamous anti-doping policy is not entirely set in stone; Armstrong's Ironman ban not quite a done deal. 6.15.12
At an extraordinary Friday meeting of World Triathlon Corporation's board of directors, the decision was made to leave in place the anti-doping policy as written. 6.16.12
The United States Anti-Doping Agency today filed formal doping charges against Lance Armstrong which could cost him all of his seven Tour de France titles; Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin called charges “baseless.” 6.29.12
The Armstrong legal team filed a motion for temporary restraining order, attempting to block USADA's hearing process that Armstrong claims is unfair. He concurrently brought his own legal action against USADA. 7.09.12
Federal judge Sam Sparks dismissed Armstrong's suit against USADA within hours of its filing, scolding the Armstrong camp for a "desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants." 7.09.12
Labor and employment litigator Kelly Burns Gallagher gives fellow Slowtwitchers an analysis of Armstrong's legal case. The arguments break down into two categories: Contract Claims; and Due Process Claims 7.11.12
Labor and employment litigator Kelly Burns Gallagher analyzes USADA's motion to dismiss Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against it. Burns Gallagher is passionate about triathlon and cycling when not busy with her legal day job. 7.20.12
Federal prosecutors closed their exhaustive criminal investigation of 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong without filing charges that he used performance enhancing drugs. 2.03.12