Despite the fact that a federal grand jury criminal investigation ended in February 2012 with no charges filed, Lance Armstrong’s doping accusation nightmare is far from over. But the world’s most famous cyclist, now retired, isn’t sitting back idle while the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pursues a case against him. His attorneys released a strongly worded 11-page letter on Friday, June 22, accusing the agency of breaking both its own rules and federal laws.
The controversy at the center of this drama is whether Armstrong, one of the sports world’s most beloved figures, both for his cycling talent and his successful cancer battle and resulting formation of his Livestrong cancer charity, used performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France from 1999-2005. Like Roger Clemens in his doping case that wrapped up on Monday, Armstrong has always vehemently denied the allegations against him. In fact, in 2009-2010, after he came out of retirement, he passed all his drug tests and posted the results on his website!
So why is the USADA continuing their pursuit of Armstrong, even after the federal criminal investigation ended in Armstrong’s favor? Armstrong and his lawyers contend in their letter that the agency gained false testimony from the 10 former teammates they say witnessed Armstrong either using or discussing the use of performance enhancing drugs, and are continuing their pursuit out of spite for Armstrong. The USADA counters that they are moving forward based on solid witness testimony and evidence that Armstrong used the blood booster EPO, steroids, and blood transfusions.
The USADA case against Armstrong now heads to a Review Board, who will decide if there is enough evidence to file formal charges. Formal charges would lead to an arbitration panel, which would allow Armstrong to finally gain access to the materials, witness names and expert analysis the USADA is using as evidence against him.
While Armstrong now has to play a waiting game as the Review Board completes their inquiry, and despite the fact that Armstrong and his attorneys feel strongly that he is being attacked unfairly with shady evidence-gathering tactics, there is still the chance that this could lead to bigger troubles for Armstrong. Cycling’s hero could be stripped of all his titles and banned from cycling if the outcome of the case favors the USADA. What do you think? Does Armstrong deserve to lose his titles? While losing his titles would be a blow, is banning a retired cyclist from the sport a meaningful punishment? And is the Anti-Doping Agency right in their continued pursuit of a sports figure who has had no charges filed against him by the federal government?