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LONDON (VN) — USA Cycling president Steve Johnson told VeloNews on Wednesday that the national federation would not comment on the escalating feud between the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI, the sport’s governing body, over USADA’s investigation into doping allegations against Lance Armstrong and former associates of the U.S. Postal Service team.
However, Armstrong’s legal team on Tuesday filed an affidavit from USA Cycling technical director Shawn Farrell in which he outlined the UCI’s jurisdiction in anti-doping controls in international events.
The ongoing investigation has spawned an unconventional custody battle of sorts as UCI president Pat McQuaid recently asserted that the international governing body, rather than USADA, has jurisdiction over the Armstrong case.
In a letter dated July 13, McQuaid claimed that USADA was withholding information from the UCI and those under investigation, and that the international governing body had no conflicts of interest in the matter.
On July 26, USADA issued a letter to the UCI, in which general counsel Bill Bock wrote, “Many could legitimately contend that UCI’s involvement in the results management of the case would suffer from a structural concern sometimes referred to colloquially as ‘the fox guarding the henhouse.’ In numerous instances the inability of a sports organization to effectively police doping within its sport has been noted.”
In the letter, Bock also wrote that the UCI had “adopt(ed) some of the arguments now being advanced by Mr. Armstrong’s lawyers and public relations consultants.”
After both letters made their way into the media, the UCI issued a press release on August 4 lambasting USADA as laying claim to “an authority that it does not have” and employing procedures “that violate basic principles of due process.”
On Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency weighed in, publishing on its website a statement forcefully asserting that it is USADA, rather than the UCI, which has jurisdiction.
“There is no provision within the (WADA) Code that allows the UCI to interfere with the USADA case based on the UCI’s own rules,” WADA director general David Howman wrote in the August 7 letter to McQuaid.
Howman’s letter also highlighted the fact that, “as a signatory to the Code, USADA has adopted in its protocols substantive anti-doping rules from the Code, as has the United States Olympic Committee, the umbrella body of both USA Cycling and USA Triathlon under which Mr. Armstrong competed.”
On Tuesday, at the conclusion of Olympic track cycling events, VeloNews asked McQuaid for comment on WADA’s letter. The UCI president declined, saying, “I prefer not to talk about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. I’m here to talk about the Olympic Games.”
Armstrong faces an August 13 deadline to respond to USADA’s allegations. At that point, he can accept what could be up to a lifetime ban — the sanction handed three others in the case last month — or request arbitration, as his longtime team manager Johan Bruyneel has done.
Armstrong and his attorneys are asking a federal judge to halt the investigation, claiming USADA has overstepped its authority and denied Armstrong due process. A hearing is set for Friday, August 10, before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas.
It’s because of the potential conflict of interest that can occur when governing bodies both test and police their own athletes that WADA, and its national affiliates, were instituted by the by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999, with the WADA Code implemented prior to the 2004 Olympic Games.
WADA receives roughly half its funding from the IOC. USADA receives its funding from a federal grant through the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), as well as through revenue generated from contracts for anti-doping services with sport organizations, most notably the USOC.
Under the WADA Code, national governing bodies, such as USA Cycling, do not actively conduct or adjudicate doping investigations, but rather they simply enforce any and all sanctions handed down by their accompanying national anti-doping agency; they prohibit athletes from competing during a suspension.
Externally, it appears as though battle lines have been drawn along the sporting authorities, with WADA standing behind USADA, and the UCI standing with the Armstrong team.
USA Cycling, it seems, is doing its best to stay neutral.
“USA Cycling has a longstanding policy of not commenting publicly on doping disputes,” Johnson wrote in an email while in London to attend the Olympic Games. “We also have a policy of not commenting publicly on pending litigation out of respect for the parties involved and the judicial process. As a result, we do not intend to issue any statements or respond to questions about the pending Armstrong/USADA litigation concerning management of doping control in federal court in Austin, especially when we are not even a party to the action.”
While USA Cycling declined to comment, Armstrong’s legal team filed an affidavit Tuesday from the federation’s technical director, Shawn Farrell. In his testimony, Farrell outlined the technical aspects of the UCI/USAC relationship, the UCI’s doping control responsibilities and the licenses held by Armstrong and Floyd Landis.
According to Farrell, “under the UCI ADR [anti-doping regulations], UCI has exclusive jurisdiction over testing at those international events where it conducts testing (if UCI does not test at a particular international event, the National Federation in that country may test), and Doping Control for such matters is governed exclusively by the UCI ADR.”
If USADA does sanction Armstrong, WADA Code states that the athlete’s international federation — in this case, the UCI — has the right to appeal the sanction to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.