Lance Armstrong suit over doping charges fails
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong attends the 2012 Paris Roubaix cycle race from Compiegne to Roubaix on April 8, 2012 in Paris, France. / Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
(CBS/AP) AUSTIN, Texas - A federal judge has dismissed Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, but says the cyclist can refile it within 20 days.
The seven-time Tour de France champion sued USADA on Monday in an attempt to prevent it from moving forward with charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled just hours later. He criticized Armstrong's attorneys for filing an 80-page complaint the judge says seems more intended to whip up public opinion for his case than focus on the legal argument.
Sparks, however, did not decide on the merits of Armstrong's case and said he can refile his lawsuit.
Armstrong wanted Sparks to rule in his favor by Saturday, the deadline he faces to either accept sanctions from USADA or go to arbitration.
The lawsuit was an aggressive, and expected, move as Armstrong seeks to preserve his racing legacy and his place as an advocate for cancer survivors and research. He wanted the judge to bar USADA from pursuing its case or issuing any sanctions against him.
Legal experts were divided on the strength of Armstrong's case.
"USADA is a unique agency, far from perfect ... but that doesn't necessarily means it's unconstitutional," said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School. "He makes some good points, but his chances for success are less than likely."
An Armstrong victory in court, however, would have shaken USADA to its core, said Michael Straubel, law professor and director of the Sports Law Clinic at Valparaiso University.
Straubel, who has represented athletes with doping cases before USADA, called Armstrong's lawsuit a "strong case" for greater protection for athletes.
"This is huge. It has tremendous implications for USADA. I really hope USADA thought all this through before it got things started," Straubel said.
Armstrong asked the court to issue an injunction by Saturday, his deadline to formally challenge the case against him in USADA's arbitration process or accept the agency's sanctions. He could receive a lifetime ban from cycling and be stripped of his Tour de France victories if found guilty. He originally faced a Monday deadline but USADA allows athletes to request an automatic five-day extension.
Armstrong insists he is innocent.
"The process (USADA) seek to force upon Lance Armstrong is not a fair process and truth is not its goal," his lawsuit says, calling the USADA process a corrupt "kangaroo court."
Tygart said Armstrong's lawsuit is "aimed at concealing the truth" and predicted a judge will rule in the agency's favor.
"USADA was built by athletes on the principles of fairness and integrity," Tygart said in a statement. "We are confident the courts will continue to uphold the established rules which provide full constitutional due process and are designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport."
USADA, created in 2000 and recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States, formally charged Armstrong in June with taking performance-enhancing drugs and participating in a vast doping conspiracy on his Tour de France winning teams, some of which were sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.
The charges came after a two-year federal criminal investigation of Armstrong ended in February with no charges filed. The anti-doping agency, however, says up to 10 former teammates and associates are willing to testify against him and that it has blood samples from 2009-2010 that are "fully consistent" with doping.
Armstrong, who retired in 2011, says he has passed more than 500 drug tests in his career and was never flagged for a positive test.
His lawsuit made several arguments:
The agency's rules and arbitration are designed to find athletes guilty. Athletes are not allowed to subpoena documents or compel witnesses to testify in a hearing. USADA has so far withheld the names of most of the witnesses against Armstrong, saying it is protecting them from potential intimidation.
The International Cycling Union, cycling's governing body which licensed Armstrong to ride professionally, should have jurisdiction over the allegations. Armstrong says allegations of doping by him and his team that were first raised by admitted drug-user Floyd Landis in 2010 should be addressed by UCI.
USADA may have violated federal law if it coerced witness testimony against him with deals to reduce punishments for riders facing doping charges. Media reports last week said former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, who are all riding in this year's Tour de France, may be witnesses against him.
Tygart and officials with the World Anti-Doping Agency have recklessly pursued Armstrong for several years in a personal quest to catch him despite Armstrong's hundreds of negative drug tests. Tygart was named a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
Last month, Armstrong's legal team said Landis and Tyler Hamilton, former Armstrong teammates who have admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, are part of the USADA's efforts to prove the cyclist doped.
In 2010, Landis wrote an email to USA Cycling chief Steve Johnson alleging he participated with Armstrong in a complex doping scheme when they were teammates. Hamilton's interview with "60 Minutes" aired in May 2011 (watch interview at left) during a federal criminal investigation into doping allegations against Armstrong. The two-year probe ended in February with no charges filed.
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