Lance Armstrong’s court defeat sets up 3-day deadline0
A U.S. federal judge has thrown out Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit against the US Anti-Doping Agency — leaving the cyclist three days to decide if he will head to arbitration to fight charges that he engaged in blood doping during his storied career.
USA Today reports Judge Sam Sparks upheld the jurisdiction of USADA to pursue its case against Armstrong on Monday, noting that the agency’s authorization stemmed from an act of Congress and the arbitrator Sydney process does not violate Armstrong’s right to due process.
Sparks said the court “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, who heard the case in Armstrong’s home town of Austin, Texas, ruled that the cyclist has not suffered such harm in this case. He noted that USADA’s arbitration rules follow the guidelines of the American Arbitration Association, are “sufficiently robust” and allow for further appeals if desired.
For the time being, Armstrong could appeal Sparks’ ruling, a move that could push back the deadline. It also would seem unlikely to achieve a different result, as Sparks’ decision squared solidly with past court rulings. USADA has never lost a court challenge of its jurisdiction.
USADA confirmed that Armstrong now faces a Thursday deadline to decide whether he will choose arbitration or accept harsh sanctions, including a likely lifetime ban and the stripping of his seven titles in the Tour de France. An additional factor for Armstrong is whether a lifetime ban would prevent him from competing in his current sport of triathlons.
Sparks said he was persuaded by USADA’s counsel that Armstrong would receive plenty of advance notice with specifics on the charges against him should he opt for dispute resolution Sydney. If not, “and it is brought to this Court’s attention in an appropriate manner, USADA is unlikely to appreciate the result”, the judge wrote.
Sparks also questioned USADA’s pursuit of charges against Armstrong beyond its own eight-year statute of limitations, and lamented the infighting among cycling groups over the Armstrong case. In the end, Sparks said it all added up to the same conclusion: The court did not have cause to intervene in advance of a long-established arbitration process, which Armstrong agreed to when he competed in licensed events.