Judge dismisses Armstrong's case against USADA
FILE - This April 1, 2012 file photo shows seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong grimacing during a news conference after the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas triathlon in Galveston, Texas. A federal judge in Austin, Texas, has thrown out Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an attempt to stop the drug case against the seven-time Tour de France winner. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Michael Paulsen, File ) MANDATORY CREDIT
NEW YORK (AP) — 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. He also can agree to proceed with USADA's arbitration or accept its sanctions.
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."
Sparks also cautioned that "the deficiency of USADA's charging document is of serious constitutional concern."
"Indeed, but for two facts, the court might be inclined to find USADA's charging letter was a violation of due process and to enjoin USADA from proceeding thereunder," he said. "First, it would likely be of no practical effect: USADA could easily issue a more detailed charging letter, at which point Armstrong would presumably once again file suit, and the parties would be back in this exact position some time later, only poorer for their legal fees. Second, and more important, USADA's counsel represented to the court that Armstrong will, in fact, receive detailed disclosures regarding USADA's claims against him at a time reasonably before arbitration."