In another twist to the ongoing saga of the United States Anti Drug Agency (USADA) and its case against Lance Armstrong for doping violations, cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has intervened. In a surprise move, the UCI claims that the USADA has no jurisdiction in the case. Furthermore, the UCI says that the USADA has failed to follow due process since charging Armstrong with doping offences in June 12 of this year.

This followed the failure of a 20-month long Food and Drug Administration investigation to produce evidence that would have led to a court case against seven-time Tour de France winner, the case was believed to have fizzled out in January 2012, leaving Armstrong’s Tour record, if not his reputation, untouched.

However, although the evidence gathered by FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky wasn’t considered strong enough to indict Armstrong on charges of fraud and misuse of US government funds (when his team was sponsored to the tune of $32 million by the US Postal service between 1999 and 2004), the witness statements Novitzky gathered were picked up by the USADA, which has used the FDA evidence as the basis on which to charge Armstrong.

While the FDA inquiry may not – and the grand jury was closed down in controversial circumstances – have collected strong enough evidence to pursue Armstrong for fraud, sports doping isn’t a federal offence and was not, therefore, central to the FDA investigation. The evidentiary strength required by USADA for claiming that doping took place is different from that required by the US grand jury for fraud.

In June, a leaked USADA letter revealed that there were no fewer than 10 eye witnesses who had gone on the record with evidence of doping practices. These testimonies, allied to what the USADA claims are abnormal blood profiles, form the basis of the case against Armstrong. While there has been much speculation about who those team mates and staff were who have given evidence were, no names have been confirmed.

And this forms one plank of the UCI’s objections – that the witness statements and evidence have not been shared – thus compromising the legality of the USADA’s position. In a letter released by the UCI, the president of the UCI Pat McQuaid said that it had jurisdiction over the people concerned and the USADA was, colloquially ‘out of order.’ In addition, in a letter to sent to the USADA on July 13, McQuaid claimed that “potential witnesses were approached by USADA and that advantages were promised in return for incriminating statements.” While this may or may not be true, it is a more common practice in American law, particularly in complex cases of financial and banking fraud.

The UCI also claims that since the USADA evidence was gathered in UCI sanctioned events or is based on test findings over which the UCI has control and jurisdiction, the USADA has no authority to impose sanctions based on that information and test results.

Unsurprisingly, the USADA is not inclined to agree and its CEO, Travis Tygart, backed by USADA lawyer William Brock III, responded that the UCI had performed “an about face” since it had previously accepted that the USADA had jurisdiction in the case. In a letter to McQuaid, Bock wrote, “You were correct in the first media statements that you made in which you opined that USADA is the correct results management authority and can impose sanctions in these cases,” and that those first statements “reflect a waiver of any right by the UCI to conduct results management in this case.”

On a less than legal note, a clearly irked Tygart noted that putting the UCI in charge of the case “would be like the fox guarding the hen house.”

So what will happen next? Both the UCI and USADA are both publicly talking about finding a third party to judge the evidence, which sounds like a way forward. However, with so much at stake for all parties concerned and tensions running high, a compromise may not be easy to reach. The UCI is keen to limit the third party investigation to focus solely on the Armstrong case, while the USADA favours a “Truth and reconciliation commission to clean up the sport of cycling for once and for all,” which clearly has a much wider scope and would involve shining lights into dark places in the UCI’s archives from the mid 1990s.

The one thing we can say for sure is that this case will not be resolved quickly.

Related links

Judge dismisses Armstrong lawsuit against USADA

Vaughters denies that Garmin team riders will be suspended by USADA

Armstrong attacks USADA for opening formal action against him

Armstrong banned from triathlons as new doping charge brought against him

February 4 2012: Armstrong holds off the law

Armstrong case dropped by US investigators

Armstrong investigation arrives in Europe

Armstrong’s team mate Popovych testifies he did not witness doping

Armstrong’s team-mate Popovych summonsed in doping investigation

Landis admits he doped and implicates others

Cycling Weekly April 17 2014 issue
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  • LauraLyn

    Ken, Thank you. That is a fair analysis, largely. You are right that the question of jurisdiction does turn on the question of discovery. The USADA has made it clear that the Floyd Landis e-mails to USA Cycling and UCI are only a small part of its arsenal of evidence. More importantly you need to be very careful when reading what the Lance and LiveStrong DC PR and lobbyists turn out in terms of court papers and what the UCI puts in its letters (which appears to come directly from the Lance and LiveStrong group). There is a lot of spin and even direct falsehoods (for example, you can see that Lance recently stopped claiming 500-600 tests with no positives [after he put this in a sworn court statement], because the public now knows that was a lie).

    In this case UCI letters to USADA claimed discovery based on evidence (the Landis e-mails). But as WADA has made clear, jurisdiction is not based on the discovery of evidence but on the discovery of a violation.

    Of course one wonders why UCI and USADA are now in this conflict. Why didn’t USADA provide UCI with the evidence and why didn’t UCI support this attempt to rid cycling of such an insidious doping conspiracy.

    Probably USADA had the insight to realize that one of the reasons Lance got away with doping for so many years was because riders and others trusted USA Cycling and UCI. And maybe USADA realized that the Armstrong/Bruyneel gang does not only include just four other thugs, but actually reaches deep into cycling in the United States and globally, where USA Cycling and UCI have been, at the least, complicit, and probably enabling.

    Your parenthesis with regard to the USADA acting “contrary to its own fair hearing rules”, is difficult to place or understand. This is not being questioned, by anyone. Lance is questioning whether he should be judged by the same rules as other athletes and whether the rules he agreed to multiple times are fair, but no one is questioning whether USADA has acted contrary to its own rules.

    The only person preventing the USADA evidence from becoming public is Lance Armstrong. As he knows, he can receive all the evidence the moment he agrees to the rules. And he can decide if he evidence is made public or not. That is how the US and international rules are written. Lance is asking for an exception, and an exception only for himself. And he has enlisted the UCI to do so, which is now telling USADA that international cycling should make up a new set of “rules just for Lance”.

  • Ken

    “So how can UCI and Lance possibly make serious their claims to a Federal Court last week? ”

    I’m not sure how the Schleck case does anything to undermines the UCI’s position. The UCI did the testing and therefore had jurisdiction. After the UCI determined there was a violation it was then handed it to the ALAD to handle the discipline.

    The Schleck case is a perfect example of how these cases work when it’s the UCI’s evidence.

    In the Armstrong case it’s not so clear. The USADA cites test results which are clearly UCI’s evidence. The other evidence is a complete mystery as the USADA has refused to release any of the evidence they have (contrary to the fair hearing rules btw).

    Some may fall under the USADA and some might fall under the UCI we have no waying of knowing. But best case (for the USADA) there is multiple jurisdictions.

    The real problem is that there is nothing in the rules for that situation. Because there is nothing in the rules regarding charging someone of a “doping conspiracy”. All the rules revolve around a specific doping incidence.

    So yes, I agree a whole new set of rules are being written.

  • Mike

    UCI????

    You can run but you cant hide.

    I hope against hope that my sport can rid itself of these blazer clad jobsworths. It is time we had people at the top of the sport who are concerned with running cycling for the athletes, rather than for themselves.

  • LauraLyn

    The Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency (ALAD) announced the following today regarding an athlete, Frank Schleck, who rides for (and is currently in good standing with) the RadioShack Nissan Trek team. Yes, this is the same team co-owned by Lance Armstrong and managed by Johan Bruyneel.

    “Since the testing and the finding of the alleged violation have been made by the UCI as a competent body, the ALAD upon presentation of the test results can only make the final statement of of an alleged violation of a doping rule,”

    So how can UCI and Lance possibly make serious their claims to a Federal Court last week? Only Lance gets to play by a whole new set of rules (still needing to be written)?

  • KennyP

    It’s worth pointing out that since this story was posted (late Tuesday afternoon) that the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) rather surprisingly issued a statement late on Tuesday night to the effect that the UCI should back off, that the UCI had mis-read the rules on jurisdiction in cases like this and that USADA has the authority to proceed with the Armstrong case. Given the history of tension between WADA and the UCI, this is not too surprising a development.

    As far as the comment above (by Robert) that the FDA case was controversially shut down by California District Attorney Andre Birotte Junior under political pressure – this may well be true. There is indeed evidence that the FDA was still lining up witnesses when Birotte Jr. unilaterally and single-handedly decided to close the case without any explanation to the interested parties. However, since this is essentially speculation and verges into conspiracy theory, it’s not that helpful. A bit like the UCI then…

  • Ken

    I really don’t get the point of going after Armstrong.

    What does it accomplish?

    You strip Armstrong of the titles and award them to the other dopers? The USADA stated “By our count, of the 21 podium finishers at the Tour de France during the period from 1999-2005, only a single rider other than Mr. Armstrong was not implicated in doping by a subsequent investigation. Yet, only a single one of these riders had a positive test with the UCI.”. So who do you give the titles to?

    Now imagine you spent the same amount of time and money that was spent on Armstrong on all the other riders in those tours. How many in the top 10 do you think would get caught? My money is on all of them.

    So yeah, Armstrong doped and beat a bunch of other dopers.

    The sport has a rampant doping problem. How about we do something about that rather than spending a bunch of tax payer money trying to strip titles from a decade ago?

  • LauraLyn

    Today the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) instructed UCI to support United States anti-doping officials and provide the USADA requested files and documents UCI has to support the investigation into Lance Armstrong.

    WADA wrote to Pat McQuaid on Tuesday stating that he must withdraw his request to take jurisdiction of the Armstrong case fromUSADA.

    WADA reminded UCI that the USADA “which discovered the violation must have results management authority” in a case.

  • LauraLyn

    Today the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) instructed UCI to support United States anti-doping officials and provide the USADA requested files and documents UCI has to support the investigation into Lance Armstrong.

    WADA wrote to Pat McQuaid on Tuesday stating that he must withdraw his request to take jurisdiction of the Armstrong case fromUSADA.

    WADA reminded UCI that the USADA “which discovered the violation must have results management authority” in a case.

    Armstrong could lose his seven Tour de France titles if he is found to have doped throughout his career, as USADA alleges.

    WADA says there is “no provision” within its rules “that allows the UCI to interfere with the USADA case” or demand to see the American agency’s evidence.

  • LauraLyn

    It seems that the UCI and McQuaid have a good deal at stake in this investigation into doping in cycling.

    The USADA’s charges against Lance Armstrong and his gang of LiveStrongs is now beginning to show the real depth of corruption, racketeering, and doping in cycling. All the payments and conspiring between Armstrong and the UCI may never reach the full light of day. However, it is clear now that this criminal behavior is not something of the past.

    Thank goodness the sport of triathlon has been saved from this same kind of hooliganism at the last moment.

    Those who gave their hard-earned money to the Lance Armstrong Foundation might be wise now to request a refund so their money can indeed be spent on cancer researcher and helping cancer victims.

  • Anne

    If they get it, they quickly throw it out to save their own butts.
    Right now in the Olympics I’d venture to say at least 1/4 of the athletes are on some PED that cannot be tested for. Same as lance did. And that’s what is fooliing you people. A certain Asian country produces and exports most of the more than 100 drugs that cannot be found in the body and there is no test for them. So lance isn’t the only one who never tested positive. Which is a lie. He did!

  • Robert

    Quote “the evidence gathered by FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky wasn’t considered strong enough to indict Armstrong on charges of fraud and misuse of US government funds”. This statement is not supported by any evidence. In reality those on the investigating team were still interviewing witnesses and were fully expecting charges to be brought before Andre Birotte Jr. announced that the case was being dropped. Consensus seems to be that this was a ‘political’ decision.

    As to the UCI, the stench of corruption is overpowering and their behaviour makes it even clearer that they are as determined to protect Armstrong as they ever were. Further examples include the way they granted Armstrong a pre-dated Theraputic Use Exemption back in 1999 when he tested positive for steroids; the hatchet job they commissioned on the LNDD when Epo was also found in his 1999 Tour samples; the alleged cover up of Armstrong’s positive for Epo in the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and the way McQuaid persuaded the ASO to get rid of Patrice Clerc prior to Armstrong’s ‘comeback’, probably because Clerc had made it clear that he was determined to address the issue of doping at the Tour. (“It’s something I shouldn’t comment on,” McQuaid told ESPN.com Wednesday. “It’s an internal Amaury decision. All I would say [to Clerc] is ‘goodbye,’ and you can read between the lines if you like.”)

    The UCI’s move also appears to be in contravention of WADA rules and contradicts what McQuaid has said about the case previously.

    Who knows, if the UCI don’t manage to bury this investigation, and so hide their own complicity in the Armstrong / USP doping conspiracy, perhaps the world will find what really happened to the money Armstrong gave to the UCI. It might even turn out to be true, as Sylvia Schenk of the UCI alleged, that Armstrong gave the UCI not 125,000 Dollars but 500,000 Dollars, with Schenk also saying that it was ‘”not clear what it was used for. It seemed to be a secret”.

  • Jeff Bike

    Everyone is missing the real point. Somebody needs to “Follow the Money”. This is “big business” it is entertainment at this level. Hundreds of millions even billions of dollars are involved.

  • Paul

    I don’t as a rule have much time for anything that comes out of the the USA but the USADA has my heart felt thanks for having the guts to stand up to the UCI and Armstrong cabal. In the past Armstrong and the UCI have been able to intimidate and buy of witnesses that have attempted to expose Armstrong’s drug use and the UCI cover up. Now a small under funded organisation has taken on Armstrong in a last ditch attempt to expose the most disgusting abuse of drugs in cycling in the last two decades. Such honesty and bravery is to be applauded and it saddens me that the USDA is not receiving the support it should from the cycling and sporting press.

  • Don Danberry

    Good. Get off Armstrong’s case.

    It’s about time someone put a stop to all this desperate, pathetic, unsubstantiated dragging of Armstrong’s name through the mud. Come up with some genuine proof or shut up.

    The present and future of international cycling is what everyone should be concentrating on.

  • Dave Hodgson

    the UCI, has intervened…because it doesn’t want the backhanders to be exposed!

  • lee

    Mmmm….why???? what has the UCi got to hide?

  • Herbie

    I know this is an American based story, but you are starting to make up adjectives in emulation of that nations linguistic abused – ‘The evidentiary strength’, is not necessary as ‘evidential’ already exists in British English, but probably its just better said ‘the strength of evidence’! Interesting story though!