You’ve all heard the news, that the US Anti-Doping Association (USADA) has banned Lance Armstrong from racing, and has stripped away all his championships, including seven Tour de France titles.
Or so the headlines read. In keeping with the “if if bleeds, it leads” rule of journalism, all the stories lead with the ban, while leaving the real problem of enforcing these sanctions up in the air. For one, the USADA hasn’t any authority to strip Armstrong’s Tour de France titles. Like the NCAA, it can only forfeit titles of participating members and while the governing body of the Tour de France are signatories to the World Doping Code they are not governed by this American NGO (non-governmental agency.)
Did I mention that the USADA isn’t a government agency, with any legal authority whatsoever, but rather an NGO? (Read their Wikipedia page.) Yeah, it does have a big sounding name, and does try to proclaims itself as the American legal authority, but really isn’t. It’s membership is mostly amateur athletics, the Olympics, USA Swimming, etc, and I assume the bicycling federation in the US.
It’s power is similar to the NCAA, itself a compact of participating member schools’ athletic programs.
Using Penn State as an example, the NCAA forfeited Penn State’s entire football seasons for ten years, and ordered the university to pony up $60 million. I’m not sure for what. A violation of due process? Well no, not really, because the NCAA is a club. If Penn State wants to stay a member of the club it has to pay up. But if Penn State tells the NCAA to take a hike, there’s nothing the NCAA can do about it. And since the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, who gives accreditation to universities in that region is also considering sanctions, PSU may just do that, for what is clearly developing here is a shakedown by private oversight groups who are taking on the airs of federal regulators.
(This is important to note in the Lance Armstrong because money, not titles, is the endgame of this case being made against him by the USADA)
The case against Lance Armstrong:
Over the years Armstrong passed hundreds of drug tests, including random ones. All of them. The case the USADA has against Armstrong are five people who will testify at one of their administrative hearings/arbitration board that Armstrong did in fact take dope, and they witnessed it. (Remember Roger Clemens last year? Acquitted based on the same sort of eyewitness testimony.)
Why this witch hunt? Well, one theory is Armstrong couldn’t beat a pack of dopers (the top five or six places) without being a doper himself. American exceptionalism is on trial here. Armstrong is either a super-hero or doping and since there is no such thing as American exceptionalism, ergo… (Did I mention that the USADA is sanctioned by the United Nations?)
How this case unfolded
USADA”s problem is this; they really don’t have half the power they say claim to have. They launched an administrative investigation, not unlike the NCAA’s, and have interviewed witnesses and confronted Armstrong. When Armstrong failed to confess, more or less, they decided to move the case over into binding arbitration, which entails am administrative law judge, or panel, hired by the USADA. Armstrong sued in federal court to have the binding arbitration requirement dismissed, but a federal district court upheld it. Armstrong did not appeal.
Instead, last week, Armstrong dropped out of the process, saying “have it your way”, reiterating that he’s innocent of all the charges.
Now Armstrong fans are taking this walking away as an admission of guilt. I don’t agree. What he is saying is that he can’t get a fair hearing (true) and if he participates then he is bound by the administrative law judge’s findings, which are foregone. So why participate in the process? Nathan Sharansky did the same thing before the Soviets sent him into the Gulag.
And since the USADA has no authority over his Tour de France titles, they seem to taking a wait-and-see position, for if they agree to strip him of those titles, who do they award them to? Place 2-5 were all known dopers.
And what if a court of law later, like Roger Clemens, reverses the USADA’s claims. (Which are likely, I might add.)
The money is the kicker. The USADA could be content to walk away with an empty order (Lance has been retired for two years) and like Coach Paterno, will have won those titles no matter what the governing body says. Here’s their long-winded and pompous justification.
What the USADA wants is to get all that money Armstrong earned, including endorsements.
But by not accepting binding arbitration the only way USADA can get his money is to sue. Only this time, they carry the entire burden of proof. No stacked administrative hearings. They must prove in a court of law that Armstrong doped despite all the evidence to the contrary.
This is a playing field on which I think Lance Armstrong wins. While the USADA can deny him the right to continue racing (he retired two years ago, big whoop) and possibly try to take away any trophys he won in the US, they simply have no jurisdiction to seize property, or levy fines. And if they do, let them get a judge to so order it.
I like Lance Armstrong’s chances here, for he, like Roger Clemens, can have a court of law grant him the only real vindication he can get in this rigged system.
And in doing so, maybe, just maybe he can burn the USADA at the stake for getting way too big for its anti-American exceptionalism britches, for that is clearly what drives their agenda.