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Lance Armstrong Files Suit to Block Doping Charges

Enough is enough, no?

Lance Armstrong on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin, Tex., seeking to block the United States Anti-Doping Agencyfrom punishing him for alleged doping violations that could strip him of his seven Tour de France titles.

The suit claimed that the antidoping agency violated Armstrong’s constitutional rights for due process and asked the United States District Court to stop the agency from moving forward with its case against him. It also named Travis Tygart, the antidoping agency’s chief executive, as a defendant and said Tygart and the agency were out to prosecute a “big fish” so the agency could justify its existence.

“Defendants have presented Mr. Armstrong with an impossible and unlawful choice: either accept a lifetime ban and the loss of his competitive achievements, or endure a rigged process where he would be certain to lose and suffer the same outcome,” the filing said.

Armstrong, who lives in Austin and retired from cycling last year, was charged last month with violations for doping and for his key role in a doping conspiracy while on the United States Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams. He faces a lifetime ban from Olympic sports, the loss of his Tour titles and the forfeiture of the money and awards he won during that time.

He has until Saturday afternoon to accept or reject a sanction from the agency that his court filing said runs a “kangaroo court.”

If he rejects the sanction, his case will proceed to an independent three-person arbitration panel, which his lawsuit called “an arbitration regime” that the antidoping agency “has populated with arbitrators who predictably find in Usada’s favor.”

That hearing is mandated by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which includes a due process checklist that delineates athletes’ procedural rights. Any appeals of the arbitrators’ decision would be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sport’s highest authority, and that decision would be final.

Tygart said Monday that he was not surprised by Armstrong’s aggressive move, considering that other athletes “who attempted to have their own rules” have challenged the antidoping agency before, and failed.

“Just like the other lawsuits that have been filed attempting to circumvent the process, the courts will review it and find similarly, that the process provides full constitutional due process to an accused,” Tygart said. “We look forward to that process ensuing.”

Armstrong’s lawsuit said that the antidoping agency’s arbitration hearing was set up to handle the case of an athlete who failed a drug test, not one of an athlete like him who has been charged with doping in the absence of a positive test.

It also said the International Cycling Union has jurisdiction over the case because the alleged doping violation was discovered by Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis, and not by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping, sent an e-mail to USA Cycling in the spring of 2010 about the doping conspiracy on the United States Postal Service squad. The antidoping agency only learned about that doping scandal later.

Armstrong’s lawyers also argue that the antidoping agency — which calls itself a quasi-governmental agency — is acting on behalf of the government in dealing with Armstrong’s case, which means it should avail Armstrong of greater constitutional procedural protections.

Those lawyers said the agency should be deemed a state actor because it receives a bulk of its financing from the government, is responsible for compliance of an international antidoping treaty and worked “entirely in concert” with federal investigators in an investigation of Armstrong that was dropped in February.

It is unclear when a judge will rule on Armstrong’s requests.

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