The triathlon world and Lance Armstrong supporters are abuzz with the news that the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) has just decided to open an investigation into Lance Armstrong and the possibility that he used performancing enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career and his Tour de France victories.
As a recent law school graduate and recently licensed attorney (Florida), I would like to clear up some misconceptions with the legal implications and subsequent ban from competition in Ironman races. (Actually this Slowtwitch article does a great job of explaining the “ban from triathlon” but I will get to that later. If you are only concerned about his ban from Ironman races, just read this Slowtwitch article.)
So here it goes……
In February of 2012, federal prosecutors closed a two year probe into alleged doping by Lance Armstrong. The probe was instituted by the United States Attorney’s Office to determine whether to bring formal criminal charges against Lance for the alleged doping. There are numerous parties that have alleged Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs during his time as a professional cyclist. Former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton have come out with the most notable allegations as of late. There are many other allegations and potential connections to doping that I do not have the time to dig up. Sorry.
So, even though the US Attorney’s Office has not decided to bring criminal charges, the USADA has apparently been interested with evidence that has been dug up in the process. The USADA has no power to prosecute Lance criminally. However, the USADA apparently has the power to investigate to determine whether Lance used perfomance enhancing drugs as a profesional athlete. I am sure there is some Federal Statute that created USADA and then bestowed it with some actual power to see that professional athletes do not use performance enhancing drugs in professional competition. Once again, I apologize that I do not have the time to dig that up either. Eventually the USADA charges will be presented to a three member panel of arbitrators that will hear evidence from USADA and Lance in order to make a determination whether he used performance enhancing drugs.
The resulting “ban from triathlon” is non-existent. World Triahtlon Corporation, the company that puts on Ironman races, claims it is required by its rules regarding professional triathletes to ban Armstrong from competing in its races due to the open investigation by the USADA. WTC has stated:
Our rules, as stated in the WTC Professional Athlete Agreement and Waiver, dictate an athlete is ineligible to compete during an open investigation. Armstrong is therefore suspended from competing in WTC-owned and licensed races pending further review
Just what that means is unclear. WTC may have the potential to review his case before Ironman France on June 24, which Lance was expected to compete in. And for the last time, I apologize that I do not have the time to dig up and read the WTC Athlete Agreement. If Lance was paying me for that…it would be a different story altogether. Moreover, Lance can still compete in triathlon but I seriously doubt an athlete of his caliber actually cares to compete in triathlons without the prospect of qualifying for and racing in the legendary Ironman World Championship in Kona.
With that being said, I also seriously doubt WTC actually wanted to institute Lance’s ban from Ironman races considering all the interest from TV networks and sponsors that Lance was creating. This rather expected phenomenon has been dubbed the “Lance factor”. His participation was only doing great things for the sport of triathlon.
Now turning to the man we have all been talking about. Lance has responded to the recent charges from USADA stating (among other things),
I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence.
What do you all think of the recent charges by the USADA? Do you think he was using performance enhancing drugs? Are you tired of hearing about this?
And for the million dollar question: Would your opinion of Lance change if it is determined by an arbitration panel that he did use performance enhancing drugs even though there has never been a positive drug test?