Armstrong Stumbles in Fight Over Doping Label

     AUSTIN (CN) – A month after slamming Lance Armstrong for failing to comply with civil procedure, a federal judge dismissed the cyclist’s lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
     “Federal courts should not interfere with an amateur sports organization’s disciplinary procedures unless the organization shows wanton disregard for its rules,” U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote Monday. “To hold otherwise would be to turn federal judges into referees for a game in which they have no place, and about which they know little.”
     The judge also denied that the agency violated Armstrong’s due-process rights in accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
     “On balance, the court finds the USADA arbitration rules, which largely follow those of the American Arbitration Association, are sufficiently robust to satisfy the requirements of due process,” Sparks wrote.
     Armstrong’s claims that do not involve due process are barred by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and Armstrong’s own arbitration agreement, according to the 30-page decision.
     “Alternatively, even if the court has jurisdiction over Armstrong’s remaining claims, the court finds they are best resolved through the well-established system of international arbitration, by those with expertise in the field, rather than by the unilateral edict of a single nation’s courts,” Sparks wrote.
     The decision nevertheless notes an alarming conflict of interest between the USADA, national governing body USA Cycling and its international counterpart, the Union Cycliste Internationale.
     “As the court has indicated, there are troubling aspects of this case, not least of which is USADA’s apparent single-minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate the charges against him, in direct conflict with UCI’s equally evident desire not to proceed against him,” Sparks wrote. “Unfortunately, the appearance of conflict on the part of both organizations creates doubt the charges against Armstrong would receive fair consideration in either forum.”
     “The issue is further complicated by USA Cycling’s late-breaking show of support for UCI, and apparent opposition to USADA’s proceedings a wrinkle which does not change the court’s legal analysis, but only confirms that these matters should be resolved internally, by the parties most affected, rather than by edict of this court,” he added.
     Sparks refused to get involved with the spat, warning the three governing bodies that they risk damage to cycling.
     “As mystifying as USADA’s election to proceed at this date and in this manner may be, it is equally perplexing that these three national and international bodies are apparently unable to work together to accomplish their shared goalthe regulation and promotion of cycling,” Sparks wrote. “However, if these bodies wish to damage the image of their sport through bitter infighting, they will have to do so without the involvement of the United States courts.”
     Armstrong, 40, of Austin, is a seven-time Tour de France winner. In February, federal prosecutors closed a two-year investigation into doping allegations against Armstrong and his cycling team, filing no charges. A well-documented cancer survivor, Armstrong contends he has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and has vehemently denied accusations that he has.
     Armstrong filed his original complaint against the USADA and USADA CEO Travis Tygart in July, but Sparks dismissed it in a mere matter of hours under the Rules of Civil Procedure.
     Sparks made it clear that he was unimpressed with the long-winded, unfocused arguments made by Armstrong’s attorneys with three high-powered law firms.
     “Armstrong’s complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts,” Sparks wrote in his three-page order.
     “Worse, the bulk of these paragraphs contain ‘allegations’ that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong’s claims and which, the court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against defendants. … Indeed, vast swaths of the complaint could be removed entirely, and most of the remaining paragraphs substantially reduced, without the loss of any legally relevant information.”
     Armstrong refiled days later.

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