Cycling / Judge dismisses Armstrong's case against U.S. agency
Cyclist Lance Armstrong claimed in his lawsuit that USADA lacked jurisdiction and its arbitration process violates his constitutional rights.
NEW YORK - A federal judge in Austin, Texas threw out Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Monday, a decision that allows the agency's drug case against the seven-time Tour de France winner to move ahead.
Armstrong, who repeatedly has denied doping, claimed in his lawsuit that USADA lacked jurisdiction and its arbitration process violates his constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the lawsuit as speculative. "With respect to Armstrong's due process challenges, the court agrees they are without merit," Sparks wrote in a 30-page order. "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."
Armstrong can try to overturn Sparks' decision by going to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans or agree to binding arbitration.
In a governing-body turf war, the International Cycling Union (UCI ) says it has jurisdiction in the Armstrong matter, not USADA. USADA could be challenged before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
Armstrong was still considering his options.
"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. "This court declines to assume either the pool of potential arbitrators, or the ultimate arbitral panel itself, will be unwilling or unable to render a conscientious decision based on the evidence before it. Further, Armstrong has ample appellate avenues open to him."
He cited a 2001 decision by the 7th Circuit in Slaney vs. the International Amateur Athletic Association, an attempt by runner Mary Decker Slaney to overturn an arbitration panel's decision that she committed a doping offense.
"Federal courts should not interfere with an amateur sports organization's disciplinary procedures unless the organization shows wanton disregard for its rules," Sparks said. "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."
USADA says Armstrong took steroids and blood boosters to win the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005. Penalties could include a lifetime ban from cycling and loss of his titles.
Tim Herman, a lawyer for Armstrong, was pleased Sparks was concerned about USADA's motives.
"UCI has asserted that it has exclusive authority to decide whether charges should be brought in this case and has directed USADA not to proceed further," Herman said in a statement.