Category Archives: Bicycling

Allowing Lance Armstrong to Compete: What Races Gain and Lose

By:  Kaitlyn Kacsuta, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @KRKacsuta)

As most people are well aware by now, Lance Armstrong received a lifetime ban from cycling and other sporting events governed by the World Anti-Doping Code.  On October 10, 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released a report that outlined the evidence against Armstrong and the “reasoned decision” to impose the ban.

Despite the sanctions, Armstrong continues to participate and compete in races, runs and triathlons.  Most recently, he competed in Maryland in the Half Full Triathlon, and won the event.  The event organizers chose to forfeit their certification with the sport’s governing body, USA Triathlon, in order to allow Armstrong to race.  USA Triathlon adheres to the World Anti-Doping Code and is subject to the USADA.  The ban imposed on Armstrong prohibits him from participating in USA Triathlon sanctioned events.

It is important to note that the Half Full Triathlon is a race series that raises money for the Ulman Cancer Fund, an organization created by Livestrong’s CEO, Doug Ulman.  The charitable nature of the event and Armstrong’s work in the fight against cancer, make the race director’s decision to drop certification far more reasonable – and possibly unique to this type of racing event.

By contrast, the Chicago Marathon prevented Armstrong from participating, though he was registered to race with his charity, because USA Track and Field (USATF) and the World Anti-Doping Code govern the event.  A USATF spokesman said that, “[t]he code is very clear regarding the ineligibility of sanctioned athletes,” and that, “Mr. Armstrong’s ban extends to track and field, road running, and all [USATF] disciplines.”

Similarly the Ironman World Championships, held annually in Kona prevented Armstrong from entering its race even before the USADA sanctions were imposed.  Ironman, who had partnered with Armstrong in February 2012 after he announced his plans to attempt to qualify for and compete in the Ironman World Championships, banned Armstrong from competing in its events when the formal charges were announced by USADA.

Armstrong has received mixed receptions since USADA sanctions were announced.  It is unclear if events and organizers that were once willing to drop certification will continue to make exceptions for Armstrong in the wake of USADA’s release of its “reasoned decision.”  There will continue to be those who push Armstrong away from events, in part because of the race benefits from maintaining certification with governing bodies – such as lower cost insurance for the event and professional competitors vying for higher placement in international rankings who are attracted to competing in certified races. 

However, there will also be those who welcome Armstrong with open arms because he brings press coverage, increased participation and ultimately more money to every event he attends.  The Half Full Triathlon had hundreds of additional athletes sign up after it was announced that Armstrong would race.  No matter the ultimate fallout from the USADA report, Armstrong will always be the moneymaking machine that led so many to ride along in his slipstream with U.S. Postal Service.

A possible solution may be for Armstrong to begin a career in the niche, yet growing sport of ultramarathon running.  Many of the most storied ultra events in the United States are not USATF certified events, though the International Skyrunning Federation (largely a European mountain running organization) is subject to the World Anti-Doping Code.  Theoretically, if Armstrong were able to qualify for an event like the Western States 100, considered the most prestigious ultra in the U.S., he would be able to run like any other competitor.  Armstrong has recently begun to hit the trails for mountain running events, so perhaps the increases in prize money and notoriety for ultra-distance running will entice him to toe the line in the future.

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Filed under Bicycling, Drug Testing, Endurance Sports

Total Loss: Will Lance Armstrong Be Stripped of His Olympic Bronze Medal?

By:  Richard Braun, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @RicBraun)

Despite being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Lance Armstrong appears likely to keep the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

At this time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is taking the stance that it is “unclear” if they have the authority to take the medal away from Armstrong. The case will turn on how the IOC chooses to interpret the eight year statute of limitations imposed by the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC). The participation eligibility section of the Olympic Charter states that “the World Anti-Doping Code is mandatory for the whole Olympic Movement.” Accordingly, the IOC follows all World Anti-Doping Code protocols.

However, the WADC did not include the statute of limitations until 2003, after Armstrong won his bronze medal. The IOC is currently wrestling with the idea that since Armstrong won his medal before 2003, the statute of limitations does not apply.

The IOC is welcome to interpret the WADC in whatever manner they please, but taking away Armstrong’s medal would defeat the very purpose of having a statute of limitations. In American jurisprudence, one of the main underlying policy arguments behind the statute is that at some point in time a person should not have to worry about being held liable for acts that occurred many years ago. For example, if a person in their 20s committed a hit-and-run but was never arrested or otherwise sued for it, he or she should not have to worry about being arrested when they are in their 40s. At some point in time, there is no longer any societal benefit to anything but an acquittal.  When the statute was enacted is not the relevant point – what is relevant is when Armstrong won his medal.

The IOC has yet to encounter a situation such as this. There is no precedent where they stripped an athlete of their medal when they otherwise would have been protected by the statute of limitations. The World Anti-Doping Agency, the authors of the WADC, has in fact dealt with this situation, however. Back in 2009, tennis great Andre Agassi admitted to using crystal meth in 1997, a substance that is banned by the WADC. However, since the 8 years statute of limitations had passed, the Agency was powerless to penalize Agassi and instead could only ask the ATP to look into the matter. At the time, the ATP had their own anti-doping agency, and could potentially punish Agassi. In the end, however, no action was taken against Agassi.

As of now, the IOC is not involved in the Armstrong case, and they are waiting on the United States Anti-Doping Agency to provide them with the materials they need to make a determination. However, what they don’t have are any positive drug tests or admissions of guilt by Armstrong. In addition, the statute of limitations imposed by the WADC, the code mandated by the Olympic Charter, seemingly puts the IOC in a corner. Any action by the IOC to strip Armstrong of his medal would likely be more for political reasons, than legal ones.

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Filed under Bicycling, Drug Testing, Olympics

Lance Armstrong’s Lawsuit Against The USADA Dismissed

On the day that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong filed a lawsuit to prevent the USADA from punishing him, a judge in Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, TX dismissed the lawsuit and all other pleadings filed along with it, including a motion for a temporary restraining order.  Ultimately, the basis of the ruling by Judge Sam Sparks of the United States District Court for the District of Western District of Texas was that Armstrong’s filings did not comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Rule 8 sets forth the “General Rules of Pleading” for filing cases in federal court.  Given that Armstrong’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, it was required to comply with the parameters set forth by Rule 8.

In Judge Sparks’ ruling, he makes direct mention of Armstrong’s failure to comply with Rule 8 (a).  In particular, Rule 8 (a) requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction. . ., a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.”

Armstrong’s dismissed complaint was neither short nor plain.  In fact, the complaint spans 80 pages.  This would not be an issue if the 80 pages was used to make a short and plain statement explaining the legal reasons why Armstrong is entitled to relief in this case.  Rather, the first 70 pages of the complaint are used to set forth things like Armstrong’s personal history (including swimming and triathlon awards he won as a child), as well as every fault Armstrong finds with the USADA.  Such arguments are not appropriate for a complaint, but rather are matters that should be presented to a jury once the case reaches the trial stage.

Armstrong’s 80-page complaint only contained ten pages of legal argument.  In those ten pages, Armstrong raised causes of action for Fifth Amendment procedural due process, common law due process, tortious interference with contract, and declaratory judgment.  Ultimately, Armstrong sought injunctive relief preventing Armstrong from having to accept the USADA’s punishments or the same being impsoed against him, declaratory judgments preventing the USADA from punishing Armstrong and monetary damages.

Ultimately, Judge Sparks dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit without prejudice.  This means that Armstrong has the opportunity to re-file the motion within the 20 days following is dismissal.  One can bet that Armstrong will take this action.  In fact, re-filing should be expected to come before the weekend.  This is due to the fact that Armstrong has until Saturday to accept or reject the sanctions set forth against him by the USADA.  Thus, if his lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order are not re-filed by Friday, a judge will not have an opportunity to rule on the temporary restraining order.  If a temporary restraining order is not granted in this case, then Armstrong will have to follow the USADA’s procedures and accept or reject its sanctions.  Thus, it is of the utmost importance to Armstrong that his legal counsel re-files its claims by this Friday, at the latest.

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Filed under Bicycling, Civil Lawsuits, Drug Testing