Armstrong's unprecedented fall from grace has precipitated much gloating and smug cries of "we told you so" from the many jealous detractors his success inspired over the years. However, the manner in which the USADA conducted its prosecution of this athlete, should give serious pause to all Americans who believe fundamental fairness and basic due process should precede stripping a person of their career, their reputation, and their financial resources.
The USADA's actions also should precipitate action by the Congress, which annually appropriates $10 million taxpayer dollars for the Agency's operations -- operations which permit a small group of unelected, unaccountable men and women to investigate and punish athletes within its questionable jurisdiction, without so much as a passing tip of the hat to fairness or due process.
As a lawyer whose practice includes litigating cases in court, I rely on well-established rules of procedure to ensure fundamental fairness, so that both sides have a more-or-less equal opportunity to uncover and present evidence in behalf of their clients. Those procedures -- monitored and enforced by judges either elected or appointed as objective and uninterested umpires -- also permit both sides robust opportunity to challenge and test the credibility and strength of the other's witnesses and evidence. We inherited such procedures from Great Britain during the colonial era, and our Founding Fathers strengthened and enshrined them in our Constitution. Our Liberty rests on their continued viability.
But not for athletes subject to regulation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, as outlined in depth in papers filed with the federal court by Bob Luskin, one of Armstrong's attorneys.
In the world as defined by, and in which the USADA operates (with the official imprimatur of the U.S. government since 2000), the deck is stacked heavily in favor of USADA and against the unfortunate athlete who finds himself in its regulatory crosshairs. In fact, there is so little room for the defendant-athlete to maneuver, that it is virtually impossible for any such individual to enjoy even a slim chance of defeating a USADA charge. Thus the recent decision by Armstrong to end his challenge to the charges against him by this rogue regulatory agency.
Unlike the real world, in which a person charged with an offense enjoys at least a fighting chance to defend themselves, a defendant facing USADA-defined charges essentially is presumed guilty unless he or she can prove the drug testing on which USADA based its indictment was faulty. That might sound like a manageable task, until one considers that the athlete has no real opportunity to test the evidence available to USADA, and cannot conduct any meaningful discovery to prepare and present a defense as they certainly would in a real legal proceeding.
Moreover, as in Armstrong's case, despite having been tested between 500 and 600 times -- both random and scheduled -- and never having failed a single USADA-sanctioned test for illicit substances, he still faced fatal sanctions. The actions which led to Armstrong being stripped of more than a decade of hard-won accolades that placed him at the pinnacle of world cycling, were based not on scientific tests, but on allegations leveled against him by others, including cyclists he beat over the years.
The manner in which Armstrong has been subject to a regulatory witch-burning is a disgrace to any notion of fairness or due process; and it ill-serves either the cycling profession or the American legal system.
Insofar as USADA operates with the blessing of the Congress and under the nominal supervision of the White House "Drug Czar," and considering the un-American manner in which it conducts its business, it is high time the Congress moves to revoke its charter and halt its access to American taxpayer dollars.
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