Lance Armstrong. That’s all I really have to say for you to have a good idea of where this is going.
EPO, Tour de France, Tyler Hamilton, hell even twitter silence or fridge are all words that make most sports fans think of specific aspects of the ongoing doping scandal surrounding the world’s most famous cyclist.
All words you’ve heard over and over in the media, I’m sure.
Another word that most will recognise is UCI – or Union Cycliste International to give them their full name. The UCI is the governing body of professional cycling. The organisation recently decided to strip Lance Armstrong of his record seven wins in the world’s hardest and most prestigious bicycle race, the Tour de France.
The decision came on the heels of an investigation carried out by the U.S. Anti Doping Agency, USADA, that seems to prove beyond a doubt that Lance Armstrong was doped to the gills in his glory years where he won the seven Tour titles.
It also follows a long war of words between USADA and UCI about who would have the final say in regards to whether Armstrong should be found guilty of doping or not.
Summed up in the most basic of terms, the main arguments that have been swung like verbal battle axes go a little like this:
USADA: Armstrong’s America and we’ve carried out the investigation and talked to all of his former team mates who all say he was doped. He rode for American teams so we get to decide what happens and where the case goes from here.
UCI: He was a cyclist and the whole investigation has to do with cycling, so we’ll decide what happens, thank you very much.
USADA: Well, we’ve found out that you guys might have helped Armstrong cover up his use of doping, or just been really stupid, so we’re not going to give you the final say or control. See how you like them apples!
UCI: You what? Best back off there, little buddy. We’re not afraid of getting our lawyers out.
USADA: Yeah? Well two can play at that game.
And then they did just that, while USADA prepared to publish their 1000 page report on the results of their investigation. It recently hit the internet, news rooms and desks at UCI with a heavy thud, probably leaving dents in UCI’s pride. It’s not a happy read for the organisation, with passages plainly showing that their efforts to investigate whether doping was used by Armstrong, his team mates or other members of the professional peleton were, at the very least, lacking any real effect.
UCI have basically had to put on the napkin and eat a piece of humble pie while scowling at USADA, who could barely keep a straight face while serving it.
The humble pie in question consists of UCI saying that they will not try to fight USADA’s report. But they have been heavily advised by their lawyers when it comes to how the pie should be eaten. The following are a few segments of the UCI’s official response to the USADA report, followed by translations of what they’re actually saying. For the full report and the full response by UCI you should go here and here.
And bear in mind, the translations are done taking , shall we say, journalistic freedoms 🙂
The report and the translations:
The UCI will not appeal the reasoned decision of USADA in the case of Lance Armstrong.
OK, so you have a 1000 pages saying he did it. You bastards then decided to ban him for doping and it would make us look really stupid if we didn’t do the same now.
The UCI will disqualify all competitive results achieved by Mr Armstrong from 1 August 1998 thereon; the sporting consequences of such disqualification on the rankings to be discussed by the UCI Management Committee during an upcoming extraordinary meeting.
But we get to say if he looses his seven wins in the Tour. So there.
After consideration of the reasoned decision by USADA and its appendices, the UCI has decided not to appeal to CAS.
We could go and tell your big brother what you did and how you screwed us over, but we’re bigger than that – and that has nothing to do with those stupid 1.000 pages you wrote.
For the UCI jurisdiction is no longer an issue at this stage. Prior to the decision taken by USADA on 24 August 2012 and imposing a sanction upon Mr Armstrong, the UCI had claimed jurisdiction for results management. The UCI had requested USADA to send a copy of the file to UCI so that UCI as responsible organization for results management would have submitted the file to an independent body in order to take the decision whether there was enough evidence warranting the opening of disciplinary proceedings against Mr Armstrong.
Even apart from any discussion on jurisdiction it would have been better that the evidence collected by USADA had been assessed by a neutral body or person who was not involved in collecting the evidence and prosecuting the defendant.
So what if we wanted someone we knew to look at your report and delete a couple of passages that made us look stupid?
Apart from this technical explanation and more importantly, there should be no doubt that if USADA had provided UCI with the case file – which USADA refused to do – for results management purposes, UCI would have come to the conclusion that Mr Armstrong had a case to answer indeed and that UCI would have asked USA Cycling to open disciplinary proceedings against Mr Armstrong.
If you had just handed us the full report before publishing it, we could maybe have screwed you over and give the whole case to our little brother in the U.S….
It is UCI’s view that USADA’s reference to national law is not appropriate. First article 24.3 of the Code states that the Code shall be interpreted as an independent and autonomous text and not by reference to the existing law or statutes of the Code signatories or governments. Secondly it would be in full contradiction with the purpose of harmonisation of the Code that an action could be commenced against one athlete but not against another because of different national legislations governing the statute of limitations. Where WADA emphasizes the need for harmonisation of sanctions, there should be no disharmony in the possibility to sanction an athlete at all.
We think we should have handled the whole case and have perfectly good arguments for that. So what if those arguments read like some sort of legal riddle? You brought your lawyers – let them figure it out!
The evidence against Mr Armstrong gathered by USADA in the wake of a federal investigation consists mainly of statements by witnesses, a number of which had already testified before the grand jury.
The UCI notes that these statements have been made under penalty of perjury.
The circumstance that the witnesses have not been submitted to cross-examination follows from the decision of Mr Armstrong not to enter into arbitration.
Even if, purely as an assumption, some statements made against Mr Armstrong would be incorrect, vague or confusing, the UCI does not have the elements to show that this would be the case.
We know he did it, but this is probably our best argument against your 1.000 pages report.
UCI will recognize and implement the decision of USADA, which implies that all competitive results achieved by Mr Armstrong in cycling since August 1, 1998 will be disqualified, including his seven Tour de France wins.
This recognition is subject to the following:
a. The recognition does not alter UCI’s position on the issue of the statute of limitations as exposed above;
Another good argument is that you’re rubber and we’re glue. No wait, that’s not it. Argghh, we’re just going to bloody take away al his tour wins! So what if it’s your report? We’re the one’s delivering the smack down, the world of hurt! OK, so we might be the one’s who kinda let him get away with it (or perhaps even wilfully turned a blind eye here and there), but that doesn’t…wait, our lawyers are looking nervous and shaking their heads…stupid USADA, you win this round!