Lance Armstrong to Judge Sparks: Just Say No to USADA Arbitration
Have you ever watched Lance Armstrong compete? It's incredible. Love him or hate him, Lance made cycling interesting.
Now, he's making anti-doping litigation interesting.
If you have no idea who Lance Armstrong is, and you think cycling is about as exciting as watching paint dry, we'll condense the dirty details to bring you up to speed.
Lance is famous for battling testicular cancer -- which should have killed him since it had spread throughout his body to his lungs and brain -- and coming back to win the Tour de France seven times. (No other cyclist has won the Tour more than five times.)
Here's a blurry picture we took of Lance on the Champs-Elysees on the day of his sixth win. Yep, we were there.
Over the years, various people claimed that Lance was too good to be true, and that he actually doped his way into history. Lance adamantly rejected those claims, noting that he never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs or methods. The feds even hopped on the investigatory bandwagon. But when Justice Department prosecutors announced in February that they were closing a criminal investigation without filing doping charges against Lance, it seemed like the legendary cyclist was finally in the clear.
That wasn't quite true.
In June, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) brought charges against Lance, alleging that has blood samples from him in 2009 and 2010 that were "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions," reports The Washington Post.
Under USADA policies, Lance's only choice is to fight the charges in agency arbitration.
Outside reports that, in similar cases over the last 20 years, federal courts have ruled that they don't have jurisdiction to review such decisions. (Keep in mind, USADA isn't technically a government agency, though Outside offers an extensive analysis of why it could be considered one.)
That brings us to the federal court side of this story. Rather than accept USADA arbitration -- which Lance described as a "kangaroo court" -- Lance sued the Agency in federal court, asking District Judge Sam Sparks to enjoin USADA from pursuing the charges.
Despite an initial benchslap for filing an excessively long lawsuit rife with zingers about the USADA officials, Judge Sparks seemed open to Lance's position during arguments on Friday, and asked the USADA why it took so long to file charges in the matter. (The USADA has an 8-year statute of limitations; some of the current charges against Lance go back 12 years.)
Judge Sparks is expected to rule by August 23, but this case is only just beginning. If Judge Sparks greenlights the USADA arbitration process, Lance will ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision. If Lance wins, the USADA will appeal. Either way, we're in early stages of a case that will define how American courts approach sports law and anti-doping charges.
- Lance Armstrong Sues to Stop Doping Case (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Civil Law? Chief Judge Edith Jones to Judge Sam Sparks: Be Nice (FindLaw's Fifth Circuit Blog)
- Benchslap of the Day: Lance Armstrong's Lawsuit Needs Some Training Wheels (Above the Law)