Monday, July 16, 2012

USADA on Trial...

The USADA, the national organization of the United States which oversees the anti-doping efforts for among others, US Olympic athletes, is under fire by Lance Armstrong. The basis of his lawsuit is that the arbitration process is corrupt, rigged against him and denies him any right to due process. The first suit, a rambling, 80-plus page diatribe was dismissed by Judge Sam Sparks of the Western District  of Texas. Armstrong was admonished for grandstanding and using the suit as a vehicle to sway public opinion. Here is an outline of the proceedings from

However it is the language of the ruling which is the most notable, with the judge blasting Armstrong for what he states was an application containing irrelevant ‘allegations’ which were ‘included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against Defendants.’

The ruling highlights several areas of concern. The first is the structure of the complaints made, with the court referring to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which that a plaintiff's complaint should contain "short and plain" statements of both the basis of the court's jurisdiction, and the plaintiff's legal claim for relief. It adds that Rule 8(d)(1) states, "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct."’

It then blasts what was submitted: “Ultimately, what Rule 8 demands is a short and plain statement of detailed facts, not a mechanical recital of boilerplate allegations, nor as is more relevant here a lengthy and bitter polemic against the named defendants.

“Armstrong's complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple subparts. 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.”

It continues by criticising Armstrong in relation to these areas. “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,” it states.

A note adds that sanctions could potentially apply if lawyers didn’t follow the rules, again knocking the former pro rider. “Contrary to Armstrong's apparent belief, pleadings filed in the United States District Courts are not press releases, internet blogs, or pieces of investigative journalism. All parties, and their lawyers, are expected to comply with the rules of this Court, and face potential sanctions if they do not.”

 The second effort was cut down to 25 pages of basically the same bullshit that was in the first suit.

The second suit contains the same claims of a witch hunt that Armstrong has been screeching about for years. He claims the head of the USADA, Travis Tygart, has an ax to grind against him and accuses Tygart of wanting to take his scalp for personal aggrandizement. Here is an overview of the responsibilities of the USADA from Wikipedia-

The USADA is a non-profit organization and the national anti-doping organization (NADO) for the United States. The organization is charged with managing the anti-doping program for U.S. Olympic, Paralympic, Pan-American and ParaPan American sport. Its work includes in-competition and out-of-competition testing, the results management and adjudication process, the provision of drug reference resources, the therapeutic-use exemption process, various scientific research initiatives, and athlete and outreach education. USADA is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

USADA is a signatory to, and responsible for implementation in the United States of, the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA), widely considered the basis for the strongest and strictest anti-doping programs in sports. In 2001 the agency was recognized by the U.S. Congress as "the official anti-doping agency for Olympic Pan American and Paralympic sport in the United States". USADA is not a government entity, however the agency is partly funded by a U.S. federal grant through the Office of National Drug Control Policy, with its remaining budget generated from contracts for anti-doping services with sport organizations, most notably the United States Olympic Committee. The United States has also ratified the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, the first global international treaty against doping in sport.

The underlined is what is at the heart of Armstrong's suit against Tygart and USADA. The most ridiculous claim by Armstrong and his over-compensated hacks is that the USADA is a "state actor", therefore he must be accorded due process as if he were being tried in a local, state or federal courtroom. Here is a brief summary of this particular point from the Washington Post-

"Armstrong’s brief further argues that USADA, a quasi-government agency, is effectively a state actor since it participated in a two-year federal criminal probe into doping claims against Armstrong that was officially closed in February. That designation means Armstrong is owed certain constitutional protections that USADA’s arbitration system denies, the complaint contends.

The complaint also says Sparks’s court should have jurisdiction and claims that USADA broke its own rules in charging Armstrong, making deals with witnesses that go against the World Anti-Doping Agency code and ignoring its eight-year statute of limitations to bring doping claims."

Its' been alleged that the USADA has given witnesses 6-month sentences to begin after the end of this years' cycling calendar. for those who haven't retired yet, this afforded them the opportunity to ride in this year's Tour de France. The suspicion is that they are the same riders who opted out of consideration for the US men's Olympic road race team to avoid the very real but highly unlikely scenario that the Olympic road race champion would months down the line be serving a ban for steroid use. I say unlikely because no US rider is really a favorite for this race.

The danger of this lawsuit is that if it is at all effective and the judge rules in favor of Armstrong, it de-legitimizes the very existence of the USADA. Next thing you know every US athlete who gets busted for steroid use can claim the same thing and the USADA loses it's power to enforce the very rules that are at the heart of its' existence. It all depends on Judge Sparks down in Austin, Texas. We'll see on August 10th when the case is going to be heard in his courtroom.

Meanwhile, Armstrong has asked and received from the USADA a 30-day extension to answer the charges, whether he wants to go to arbitration or like his co-horts in crime decide to accept a lifetime ban from the sport. Three of the individuals named in the original charging letter have decided not to argue their case and have received lifetime bans-Dr. Michele Farrari, Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, and steroid bagman/trainer José "Pepe" Marti.

Under USADA rules, Moral, Marti and Ferrari had until Monday to challenge the allegations against them in arbitration or ask for a five-day extension. If they did not respond, USADA could impose sanctions. Although none lives in the United States, USADA says the ban blocks them from participating in any sport that falls under the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
“The respondents chose not to waste resources by moving forward with the arbitration process, which would only reveal what they already know to be the truth of their doping activity,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA.

US Postal, Discovery and Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel and another team doctor, Pedro Celaya, have decided to fight the charges and notified the USADA of their intentions. The only bozo left is Armstrong, who has taken the egregious step of utilizing a corporate lobbyist from the Livestrong Foundation to stalk the hallways of the US House of Representatives in Washington inquiring about the "fairness" of the investigation.
One of the visits paid by this lobbyist was to US Representative José Serrano, who just so happens to be a member of the House Appropriations Committee. The USADA gets their budget allotment from this committee. Using a Livestrong lobbyist, who is paid by the Livestrong Foundation, which is supposed to be out there "fighting" cancer, to undermine the very existence of the USADA is about as low as any slimy, slithering snake can stoop.

According to a spokesperson for Congressman José Serrano, the lobbyist broached the "fairness" of the USADA case against the Livestrong Chairman, the Wall Street Journal reported. Congressman Serrano sits on the House Appropriations Committee, whose role it is to set government funding. USADA currently receives $9 million of government funding as part of its $15 million annual budget. Here is a quote from the SI article that delves further into this egregious conflict of interest story-

Targeting Serrano for such a meeting hits the anti-doping agency in a sensitive spot. Serrano is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government, which oversees part of the agency's budget. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy provides $9 million a year to USADA. The meeting was "substantially if not all about USADA and concerns about the process that Lance Armstrong is being put through," said Serrano spokesman Philip Schmidt.

Here is your hero, America. Cancer Jesus putting donation dollars to work to undercut the investigation against him. But this crap is beginning to backfire on Armstrong. Senator John McCain chimed in and had this to say after Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner opened the proceedings by shilling for Lance Armstrong-

Last week, Congressman  Jim Sensenbrenner sent an open letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) querying the $9 million dollars of tax payer funding given to USADA. The move was then followed by United States Senator John McCain backing the USADA investigation into Armstrong and his associates, saying that the Agency's rules and processes applied to all U.S. athletes "regardless of their public profile or success in sport."

There will be more about the underhanded dealings of Lance Armstrong as he tries to rally political opposition to his cause on Capital Hill. Stay tuned, because August 10th is still a few weeks away, when Judge Sparks rules on the validity of the suit against Tygart and the USADA.

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