Photo: AP Images
Well, anyone who expected Lance Armstrong to have a different response to formal doping charges than he has to all those informal accusations was wrong.Lance Armstrong’s legal team responded to the US Anti-Doping Agency’s recent allegations yesterday in the same tone and manner in which Armstrong has always responded:
The people accusing me of this are lying scumbags who are just trying to use me to improve their own pathetic lives.
In this case, in fact, Armstrong went further.
He accused the USADA of breaking the law.
Specifically, he alleged that the USADA has done exactly what the USADA is accusing him of doing: Intimidating and manipulating witnesses to coerce them to lie about him. This, Armstrong’s lawyer says, is not just a violation of the USADA’s own rules–it is a violation of Federal law.
And the attorney had plenty of other choice things to say about the USADA and its doping charges and witnesses and evidence as well.
All this came in the form of an 11-page letter from Armstrong’s lawyer, Robert D. Luskin of Patton Boggs, to the USADA’s “review board.” After the USADA filed its allegations two weeks ago, Armstrong had until the 22nd to respond in writing. This letter was the response.
The USADA review board–3 people–will now weigh the USADA’s evidence and Armstrong’s response and decide whether to formally charge him with doping. If they do, Armstrong will then have the ability to challenge the evidence in an arbitration hearing. And the arbitrators will then decide his innocence or guilt.
(Armstrong can challenge that verdict, too, if he wants.)
Most of Luskin’s letter took the form of a vitriolic attack against the USADA and its process and people, two of whom Luskin attacked personally. The letter also raised some legitimate complaints, namely this one:
- Since the USADA refuses to say who its 10+ witnesses against Armstrong are, how is Armstrong supposed to respond to their allegations?
The USADA refused to give the names of its witnesses because, it says, it didn’t want Armstrong to try intimidate these witnesses the way he has other witnesses (alleged) over the years.
But if the point is to give Armstrong a chance to respond to the evidence before the case goes to arbitration, it does seem reasonable to expect that the accused be able to review the evidence against him.
Armstrong’s attorney also attacked the two specific allegations in the USADA’s charges: It pointed out that the doctor who the USADA says will testify that Armstrong failed a doping test has already said that this “failure” would never hold up in a court of law, and it ridiculed the USADA’s analysis of some more recent Armstrong blood samples that the USADA said were “consistent with” doping.
And, last but not least, the letter threw a punch at Jeff Novitzky, the famous government investigator who pursued a criminal case against Armstrong for two years and then dropped it a couple of months ago. Novitzky, Luskin said, realised he didn’t have a case against Armstrong, so, in violation of all honour and professionalism, he leaked snippets of grand jury testimony in an attempt to besmirch Armstrong’s reputation.
Will the letter be enough to persuade the USADA’s review board to decide not to bring formal charges?
The USADA had to expect that this would be Armstrong’s response if and when it ever brought charges. So, presumably, it would not have brought the charges unless it felt it had a strong case.
But we won’t know that until we see the evidence.
In the meantime, it’s war.
- Four Lance Armstrong Teammates Support Allegations Against Team Doctor
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- Here Are The New Doping Charges Against Lance Armstrong
NOTE: Almost everyone has strong feelings about the Armstrong case, both pro and con. Lance Armstrong’s supporters don’t want to see his amazing accomplishments tarnished any more than they already have been (and, doped or not, the accomplishments are still amazing). They also point out that this is all very old news and that the country has better things to focus on. Others, meanwhile, simply want to know the truth. I’m in the latter camp. I followed Lance Armstrong’s Tour victories minute by minute, and those and his charitable work have always been hugely inspiring to me. Based on all that has come out about cycling in the past decade, I have come to assume that pretty much everyone in the sport doped and that you had to dope if you wanted to be competitive. Given this, I can certainly understand why Lance Armstrong would have doped, and if he did, I’m not going to get on some huge moral high horse about his “cheating.” (“Cheating” gives you an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. You don’t get that if everyone else in the field is doing the same thing.) If Lance Armstrong didn’t dope, meanwhile, and everyone else–including his teammates–did, his accomplishments are that much more staggering. And inasmuch as we’ve come this far, I want to know the truth.
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