|Senator John McCain|
After Rep. Sensenbrenner (Rep. Wisconsin--Trek Bicycles district) put pressure on USADA on Thursday (see this link), I was pleasantly surprised to see John McCain come out in support of USADA. Here are a few more details from an article on VeloNation along with my usual commentary.
McCain issued the following statement that you can find online on McCain's website and in various news articles:
“While the charges are serious, and I expect the process to be fair, I fully support USADA and its right to undertake the investigation of, and bring charges against, Lance Armstrong,” he wrote in a statement. “USADA is authorized by Congress and provides assurances to taxpayers, fans and competitors that sports in America are clean. USADA’s rules and processes, approved by America’s athletes, the United States Olympic Committee and all U.S. sport federations, apply to all athletes regardless of their public profile or success in sport.
“This process is the proper forum to decide matters concerning individual cases of alleged doping violations.”The interesting part of the responses from Sensenbrenner and now Senator McCain is that both are Republican Congressmen (Sensenbrenner in the House and McCain in the Senate) and one appears to have obvious motives and the other doesn't. That is, Sensenbrenner is over the district in Wisconsin where Trek Bicycles is headquartered and Lance Armstrong is reported to have significant financial and other ties to Trek. As for McCain, I don't know what his motives are except, perhaps, that he believes fraud and cheating and doping are wrong and he wants the truth to come out. If those are his motives, my hat is off to him and I've gained a lot of respect for him for doing this.
VeloNation reported the following about Trek after Sensenbrenner came out against USADA:
Trek Bicycles, which is also based in Wisconsin, received a large number of messages to its Twitter account afterwards, with messages accusing the company of seeking Sensenbrenner’s assistance in the matter. Armstrong has close ties to the company.I think it's great that people saw through this likely ploy by Lance and his legal team to get Sensenbrenner to pressure USADA and responded by tweeting Trek to let them know they saw through the ploy. I also think it's great that McCain took a stand for USADA as they fulfill their duty to look into the doping allegations against Armstrong. Along these lines, I love this statement by Travis Tygart in response to Sensenbrenner (as reported in VeloNation and other places):
“The case against all those involved in the USPS Pro-Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy, including Lance Armstrong was not brought lightly. We are well aware of his popularity and the admirers he has on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, but our responsibility is to clean athletes who demand that USADA protect their right to a level playing field by eradicating drug use from sport,” he stated. “They rightly depend upon USADA to ensure that no matter how famous or anonymous, we will treat each alleged offender the same.”
He sought to justify the specific action against the multiple Tour winner, saying that procedures begin when the case is strong enough to do so. “USADA accomplishes this directive when it has sufficient evidence and not on any other basis. Any decision to sanction an athlete is the result of multi-level review by persons independent of USADA including a panel of arbitrators following a full evidentiary hearing with a right of appeal where, witness testimony is given under oath and subject to cross examination and which can be open to the public.
“The evidence is overwhelming, and were we not to bring this case, we would be complicit in covering up evidence of doping, and failing to do our job on behalf of those we are charged with protecting.”Now, I haven't seen the evidence but I believe Tygart is very unlikely to be pursuing this political hot potato unless he has what he calls "overwhelming" evidence. So is it about over for Lance? I'm not ready to say it's over until I hear the fat lady sing and I haven't heard that yet. You might ask: how could Lance get out of this? Here are the thoughts I have:
- Show the evidence is bogus and that he rode clean. Based on his response, it doesn't sound like this is an option he is considering. Why? Your guess is as good as mine..
- Apply political pressure and get USADA to drop the charges. I was concerned that this strategy might work but with John McCain's support, that is looking less likely. However, I wouldn't count Lance and his legal team out in this regard yet. In this world of Chicago-style politics, it wouldn't totally surprise me if President Obama announced tomorrow that he is shutting down USADA in an effort to cut the deficit and that the doors will be shut Monday morning at 8am.
- Stop USADA through court order. I think this one is very unlikely. All the talk about due process and constitutional rights that Lance's legal team is putting in the press is a bunch of hot air from what I can tell. Essentially, Lance entered into an agreement with USADA when he raced his bike and purchased a license through the UCI to race. He showed he entered that contract through various actions including submitting to doping tests, notifying USADA of his whereabouts throughout the year, etc. I'm no legal scholar but from what I can tell, due process has nothing to do with contracts between two parties. If I agree to give up any race results if I'm found doping and then I dope, I can't hide behind the constitution to protect me. If I agree to follow USADA's evidence process for determining that I doped and then I dope and they bring evidence that is consistent with the agreement we made then the constitution has nothing in it to protect me. I've entered into a contract willingly and the contract will speak for itself. The reasons why this approach is likely to fail are set out in great detail in this blog post by another author who appears to have some legal expertise that I lack. It's worth a read if you're interested in more detail.
In the end, I think the second method is Lance's best bet and it appears he and his legal team do too. Time will tell whether this strategy works as well as his Tour de France strategies or if he has finally hit a wall that he can't get over.
From reports of the evidence, including testimony from his closest associates, this is a big wall...