Lance Armstrong’s world is crumbling around him.
In the latest blow to the his efforts to hold his legacy intact, his legal challenge to US Anti-Doping Agency's proposed methods of dealing with his doping charges has been thrown out of court by U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks.
ESPN reports that in dismissing the application, Judge Sparks said of the Armstrong legal team’s 80-page submission:
”This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims.”
Judge Sparks did not, however, pass comment on the legal facts at the centre of Armstrong’s challenge and invited his team to resubmit—presumably minus the rhetoric and personal attacks.
Armstrong’s challenge revolves around whether USADA has the jurisdiction to press the charges and hear the testimony.
Instead, he argues, the UCI should be the ones to process the charges as they were the ones who licenced him to ride professionally—not the U.S. Olympic Committee, who are represented by USADA, according to SBS online.
On the face of it, the process does seem somewhat unfair. USADA presses the charges and selects an “independent” panel of arbitrators to hear the charges and rule on the validity—something that Armstrong insists violates his Constitutional right to a fair trial.
In the USADA process, the defendant is not allowed to subpoena witnesses or even see all the evidence against them, including the witness lists.
That would be unthinkable in a real court.
Ultimately, this will end up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport—the sort of international version of the Supreme Court for athletes.
But only if it goes through arbitration first. And there’s the rub.
Should USADA’s arbitration go ahead, then Armstrong’s chances of winning are slim. The system is set up to find defendants guilty as they are usually dealing with positive doping tests.
This isn’t the case here.
Perversely, Armstrong’s manager, Bill Stapleton, helped draft the process when he was with the USOC, according to SBS online.
The case against Armstrong is largely anecdotal, based on witnesses who purportedly have seen Armstrong use performance enhancing drugs. It relies on witnesses who reportedly have either been found guilty of doping offences or have received the promise of reduced sentences for doping charges that have yet to be released.
ESPN reports that USADA also claims to have blood samples taken since Armstrong’s comeback in 2009 that are “fully consistent” with doping.
If Armstrong has returned positive samples then this is a no-brainer, but surely that would have been all over the news. Instead, we get samples that are "consistent with doping," which to the untrained eye suggests that they are negative.
A guilty verdict against Armstrong, even if it is later overturned by the CAS, would deal a massive blow to Armstrong’s legacy and cause irreparable damage to his reputation and causes.
That’s not a reason to not proceed, but it is a reason to be absolutely certain that the case against him is absolutely bulletproof.
Heaven knows there will be lots of legal bullets flying around.