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US lawmaker wants probe of USADA over Armstrong

A US lawmaker wants the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to investigate the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the wake of its charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2012 09:02 IST

A US lawmaker wants the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to investigate the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the wake of its charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

House of Representatives member Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, sent a letter on Thursday asking ONDCP director Gil Kerlikowske to investigate how the sports doping watchdogs spend about $9 million a year in US taxpayer funding.

The move comes exactly one month after USADA informed Armstrong it had taken formal action against him, leading to doping charges against Armstrong and five other men that the agency says engaged in a doping conspiracy during the US star's Tour de France run.

Three men were issued life bans by USADA earlier this week.

Armstrong has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, citing more than 500 doping tests without a positive -- a defense weakened by such disgraced admitted dope cheats as Marion Jones having passed similar tests for years.

"The US Congress has no role in determining whether an individual athlete doped, but we do have a great interest in how taxpayer money is spent," Sensenbrenner wrote.

"As USADA's main funding source, ONDCP should take interest in the agency's conduct. Nonetheless, I have found virtually no evidence of ONDCP oversight of USADA... ONDCP should take a serious interest in how its funds are spent."

Armstrong has filed a federal lawsuit in US district court in his hometown of Austin, Texas, to have USADA's charges dismissed, saying USADA's arbitration system of settling challenges is unconstitutional.

Armstrong also claims USADA lacks jurisdiction to make such charges, saying only the International Cycling Union does.

USADA has given Armstrong a 30-day extension in his deadline to respond to the charges against him so a court can rule upon the merits of his lawsuit.

Armstrong withdrew a demand for an injunction against USADA once the extension was given.

Sensenbrenner made it clear he sides with Armstrong's attack against USADA, which would have an arbitration panel hear evidence against Armstrong and in his defense before rendering a decision, one which could be appealed all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"USADA seeks to strip Armstrong of his achievements and the substantial winnings that accompanied them without offering him even basic due process," Sensenbrenner said.

"The alleged lack of fairness raises concerns for athletes of all levels, the majority of whom lack the resources and platform to challenge USADA's actions."

The US Justice Department ended an investigation into Armstrong in February 2011 without making any criminal charges against him.

"USADA's authority over Armstrong is strained at best," Sensenbrenner said. "To circumvent its jurisdictional challenges and its statute of limitations, USADA has adopted a novel conspiracy theory."

Sensenbrenner wants to know if ONDCP has analyzed USADA processes and done any oversight or procedural review of the agency, if ONDCP approves of USADA looking into the same issues the US Justice Department studied, if it was told of the Armstrong probe and if ONDCP considers USADA's investigation unbiased.

Sensenbrenner notes the arbitration hearing system was meant to deal with athletes challenging positive dope tests and notes that Armstrong has not yet been told the identity of the witnesses against him, although Armstrong would be notified well ahead of any hearing.

"Presumably, USADA has offered other athletes inducements to testify against Armstrong, but USADA has no obligation to disclose what those inducements were or whether it offered them," Sensenbrenner said.

"Arbitrators are not chosen under the election procedures... the only judicial review permitted would be in Switzerland, not the United States. It is clear that the USADA arbitration process lacks the most basic due process.

"I wholeheartedly support the USADA mission but fairness on the field cannot come at the expense of fairness off the field."