Seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong attended the 2012 Paris Roubaix cycle race from Compiegne to Roubaix on April 8, 2012 in Paris, France. The 110th edition of the race is 257km long with 51.5km of cobbles spread over 27 sections.
(April 7, 2012 – Source: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images Europe)
And he wants answers by July 27.
In a letter Thursday to the director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Wisconsin Republican wrote that “USADA seeks to strip Armstrong of his achievements and the substantial winnings that accompanied them without offering him even basic due process.”
He also asserted that USADA’s authority over Armstrong “is strained at best.”
Sensenbrenner noted that USADA gets $9 million in grant funding from the Office of National Drug Policy but wrote that “I have found virtually no evidence of ONDCP oversight of USADA.”
USADA, which has operated since 2000, was authorized by Congress as the national anti-doping agency charged with protecting the integrity of competition in Olympic sports. Athletes sign agreements to be tested, and the agency’s authority has consistently withstood court challenges.
In a statement, USADA CEO Travis Tygart said the case against Armstrong was “not brought lightly.” He also said the evidence against the cyclist is “overwhelming.”
“We are well aware of his popularity and the admirers he has on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, but our responsibility is to clean athletes who demand that USADA protect their right to a level playing field by eradicating drug use from sport,” Tygart’s statement said.
USADA has accused Armstrong of using drugs and blood transfusions doping to improve his performance. In 30 days, the cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner must decide to accept USADA’s sanctions or challenge them in arbitration. Accepting them could mean Armstrong will be stripped of his cycling titles and banned for life from competition, even in his current sport of triathlons.
If he challenges the allegations, USADA’s process calls for the case to be heard by a three-person arbitration panel, with each side nominating one arbitrator and the third agreed upon by both parties.
“If Armstrong submits to USADA’s arbitration, he will be in the unenviable position of carrying the burden to rebut testimony from witnesses he cannot even cross examine,” Sensenbrenner wrote of the arbitration process.
Armstrong has for years denied doping allegations, saying he has never had a positive test. He sued USADA this week to keep the case from proceeding, saying it lacks jurisdiction and that its process denies him due process.
Sensenbrenner asked the drug policy office if it conducts oversight of USADA, how frequently and in what manner.
“In response to this letter, please describe the role ONDCP plays in ensuring that USADA fulfills its Congressional mandate in a manner that protects the due process rights of athletes subject to its authority,” Sensenbrenner wrote.
Tygart said clean athletes “rightly depend upon USADA to ensure that no matter how famous or anonymous, we will treat each alleged offender the same.”
Tygart says the arbitration process does allow for cross-examination of witnesses.
“USADA accomplishes this directive when it has sufficient evidence and not on any other basis. Any decision to sanction an athlete is the result of multi-level review by persons independent of USADA, including a panel of arbitrators following a full evidentiary hearing with a right of appeal where, witness testimony is given under oath and subject to cross examination and which can be open to the public.
“The evidence is overwhelming, and were we not to bring this case, we would be complicit in covering up evidence of doping, and failing to do our job on behalf of those we are charged with protecting.
“We will reach out to Congressman Sensenbrenner and offer to come in and discuss the process, which is the same in all cases whether it involves high profile athletes or those who are not. We will also offer to brief the Congressman on how USADA is funded and the oversight that is provided by ONDCP. USADA is an open and transparent organization and welcomes to opportunity to fully address the Congressman’s inquiry.”