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USADA looks forward to questions concerning its procedures

Tygart welcomes probe from California state senators over the agency's finances and processes

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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The United States Anti-doping Agency is eager to answer questions regarding its practices, according to CEO Travis Tygart.

The agency finds itself amidst withering criticisms in light of its fight with Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times between 1999 and 2005. Armstrong recently laid down arms in the quest to clear his name of doping allegations that span all his Tour wins, which USADA aims to strip from the Texan.

Twenty-three California state senators, led by elite amateur marathoner Michael J. Rubio — an athlete subject to USADA oversight — asked that that state’s U.S. senators request a review of the agency. The request comes on the heels of USADA’s actions against Armstrong, though the state senators’ request doesn’t name Armstrong specifically. Armstrong, along with his manager Johan Bruyneel, is accused of conducting a wide-ranging conspiracy to use, distribute and cover-up doping products and procedures between 1998 and 2010.

In a letter to United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, the state senators “respectfully request that (Feinstein and Boxer) call upon (that office) and the appropriate oversight committees of the United States Congress to develop appropriate constitutional protections and conduct a comprehensive review of USADA’s operations and finances, with special attention to USADA’s unilateral changes in rules for dealing with athletes who have never failed a drug test.”

To that, USADA says no problem.

“We look forward to answering any question these state representatives have about the congressionally mandated process that was approved by athletes, the United States Olympic Committee and all U.S. sport federations,” Tygart said.

The statement from USADA also points out that the system has been used in more than 400 cases, 20 percent of which have not seen positive tests. It also notes that a federal judge rejected Armstrong’s complaints and confirmed that the USADA process “provides full Constitutional due process to all athletes accused of doping violations.”

Armstrong had never been sanctioned previously for a failed doping test. VeloNews understands that evidence in USADA’s case file includes that of an alleged failed test at the 2001 Tour de Suisse and a collection of samples from the 1999 Tour de France that retroactively tested positive for EPO. Armstrong is the second high-profile athlete, along with track sprinter Marion Jones, to face USADA sanction without having registered an official positive test. Armstrong did fail a test for cortisone during the 1999 Tour de France, but produced a Therapeutic Use Exemption after the test.

Brian Holcombe contributed to this report.