Saturday, June 23, 2012

More on Armstrong and the USADA

On June 21 under the title of "Lance Armstrong Is Being Crucified" I start a story that should concern all Americans, we should be concerned because of what one finds when they look deeper into the USADA. While sounding like a branch of the federal government, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency it is not. It is a nonprofit agency created in 2000 after the U.S. Olympic Committee recommended creating the agency because its own drug-testing program lacked credibility. The USADA receives almost 90 percent of its funding from the federal grants, in effect the USADA is not a true nonprofit agency  but a "government program masquerading as a non-profit organization". Recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping police for U.S. Olympic-related athletes and sports it is not a law enforcement agency and does not have the power to bring criminal charges. 

Please note, the office of National Drug Control Policy, a branch of the Federal government funds the USADA with a $10 million  grant from federal tax dollars to operate. According to legal counsel for the NDCP the $10 million grant is an “unsupervised non-competitive” grant, this means USADA CEO Travis Tygart and staff are guaranteed $10 million a year in funding from the Federal government, but must answer to no one. Their non-profit status allows it to investigate and prosecute athletes without affording them the constitutional and due process protections required of other federal agencies. This status also allows it to prosecute athletes with a lower burden of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in the previous investigation by the US Department Of Justice.

What are the internal and external controls at USADA? What would restrict an overly ambitious CEO from abusing this power? "According to USADA bylaws, the organization has a very small ten member board of directors. The current director’s are apparently impressed with Tygart and his “Tygarthian” prosecution style of accusing first and looking for evidence later. Unless Mr. Tygart received a pay cut last year, he’s been paid a total of over $1.2 million in compensation and $100,000 in bonuses over the past four years. A spokesperson at the USADA has she declined to comment whether Tygart’s bonuses were tied to finding a certain number of athletes or a particularly high profile athlete guilty of doping.

Imagine walking into a courtroom as the defendant in a lawsuit. The prosecuting attorney reads the charges against you citing nothing more than the testimony of anonymous witnesses as evidence. You object, claiming this is unjust! To your surprise the prosecutor walks to the judge’s bench, puts on a judge’s robe and denies your motion. The prosecutor, still wearing his judge’s robe, then takes out his cell phone and calls three of his friends to serve on your “independent” jury. This fictitious, but obviously unjust situation is incredibly similar to the case Lance Armstrong currently faces from the Anti-doping Agency and its CEO Travis T. Tygart.

If an athlete had failed a drug test and the board was looking at objective evidence this process might make sense however, Armstrong has never failed a drug test. All of the evidence in this case is subjective, these are the same charges that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after an expensive two-year investigation. It seems Mr. Tygart has allegedly caught several other cyclists doping, and offered them immunity in exchange for their testimony against Lance. Shouldn’t the credibility of such a witness be at least considered? With the 2012 London Olympic Games a little more than a month away Mr. Tygart and his staff are responsible for testing all US athletes headed to the games, however he has chosen to use the majority of his offices resources investigating whether a retired cyclist doped 16 years ago. 

The bottom line is that this hugely government funded group is out to destroy Armstrong, his Tour de France titles, and his legacy as the cancer-fighting hero, his foundation that trades on his name to raise millions of dollars to help cancer survivors, it's all on the line. After his 1999 Tour de France victory, Armstrong wrote a book, "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life," that helped define him as an inspirational athlete who came back from the brink of death to beat cancer and dominate a grueling sport. Now he is confronted by a beast created by our out of control government that could  taint his entire career. To say this is disgusting is an understatement, more controls must be put on how taxpayer money is spent.

No comments:

Post a Comment