AUSTIN, Texas (AFP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed Monday by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) but said that he can refile it within 20 days.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks criticized Armstrong’s lawyers for the 80-page filing in tossing it out, saying it smacked of a public relations move rather than a challenge to the body that imposes doping sanctions on U.S. athletes.
But Sparks also said he was not ruling on the merits of the lawsuit and said that the U.S. cycling legend was welcome to once again present it. Armstrong hoped to prevent USADA from pressing on with doping charges against him. Armstrong has until Saturday to challenge USADA’s charges through a hearing with a three-member arbitration panel or accept sanctions.
Instead, Armstrong hoped to turn the entire system on its head, challenging USADA’s jurisdiction in his case and the legitimacy of its rules. Armstrong’s legal move, coming in his hometown, claimed USADA rules are a violation of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Armstrong, who has denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, also claims that USADA chief executive Travis Tygart is pursuing a personal vendetta against him.
Armstrong, who won the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 and has since retired from cycling, could be stripped of his Tour de France triumphs and banned from the sport for life if convicted.
“It is a testament to USADA’s brazenness and callous disregard for its own mission that it seeks to strip Mr. Armstrong of his life’s work,” Armstrong’s attorneys said in court filings.
“The process (USADA) seek to force upon Lance Armstrong is not a fair process and truth is not its goal.”
Armstrong wanted Sparks to issue an injunction banning USADA from pushing its case to an arbitration hearing, the next step in procedures that could lead to the case being settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Armstrong’s lawyers called USADA’s hearing procedure a “kangaroo court” and said that Armstrong would not be able to launch a proper defense against the charges under USADA rules and would face irreversible harm if USADA proceeds.
Tygart, in a statement, said Armstrong’s lawsuit is part of a bid to hide the truth about his misdeeds.
“USADA was built by athletes on the principles of fairness and integrity,” Tygart said. “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 charged Armstrong last month with being part of a doping conspiracy during his years as Tour de France champion, the move coming four months after a two-year federal probe into Armstrong ended with without charges.
Armstrong claims to have taken more than 500 drug tests in his career without ever testing positive.
USADA claims to have nearly a dozen former Armstrong associates willing to testify against him and says it has blood samples from more recent events that indicate doping by Armstrong, who has never served a ban for failing a doping test.
USADA has not made public the names of those witnesses, saying it wants to protect them from possible intimidation but opening claims from Armstrong about the veracity of USADA’s case and claims.
Armstrong says that some witnesses are not credible, such as admitted dope cheat Floyd Landis, and others have grudges and already disproven claims against him. Three European media outlets, including Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported last week that former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie are among those set to testify against Armstrong. All four are in this year’s Tour de France field.
Armstrong also argues that any such investigation should be pursued by the global sport governing body, the International Cycling Union, and not USADA.