(Reuters) - A federal judge swiftly dismissed a lawsuit on Monday that retired cycling champ Lance Armstrong had filed in a bid to stop the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency from proceeding with a case charging him with using drugs during the years he won the Tour de France.
District Judge Sam Sparks, who said he would allow lawyers to file an amended complaint within 20 days, called the suit a “lengthy and bitter polemic” rather than the “short and plain statement of detailed facts.”
“This court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong’s desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of a few kernels of factual material relevant to the claims,” Sparks wrote in a three-page ruling, released only hours after the cyclist filed suit.
Armstrong was facing a Saturday deadline to either challenge the charges he had taken performance-enhancing drugs, or accept sanctions that could strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him from the sport for life if he is found guilty.
The USADA is a quasi-governmental agency created by Congress in 2000 and charges would be considered by its own arbitration process. Any penalties would be binding within the sport, but federal courts have the power to overrule the agency.
Lawyers for Armstrong contend that the USADA gathered evidence by threatening to ruin the careers of fellow cyclists who have agreed to testify against him. Lawyers for Armstrong also argue that the agency’s rules violate Armstrong’s right to a fair trial and that it lacks proper jurisdiction to charge him.
The legal action, filed in Armstrong’s Austin, Texas, hometown, claims the agency’s investigation is causing “irreparable” damage to the champion cyclist, who won seven straight Tour de France championships between 1999 and 2005.
In a statement issued Monday, the USADA said Armstrong’s lawsuit is “without merit” and that USADA rules “provide full constitutional due process… designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of the sport.”
The judge’s ruling was provided by the USADA. A lawyer for Armstrong could not immediately be reached for comment.
Accusations of doping have dogged Armstrong since he ascended to the top of the cycling world after overcoming cancer. In February, the Justice Department dropped an investigation centered on whether Armstrong and his teammates cheated the sponsor of their bike racing team, the U.S. Postal Service, with a secret doping program.
Last month, the USADA formally charged Armstrong with doping and taking part in a conspiracy with members of his championship teams. Five other cyclists have been accused of conspiring with Armstrong over the course of 14 years to hide doping activity.
The agency said in a letter to Armstrong that it has blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are “fully consistent” with doping. In the letter, which was published in the Washington Post, the agency said it also has at least 10 former teammates and colleagues of Armstrong that will testify that he used doping drugs during races from 1999 to 2005.
Armstrong’s attorneys contend that he has “passed every drug test ever administered to him in his career - a total of 500 to 600 tests... more drug tests than any athlete in history.”
They say the International Cycling Union has proper jurisdiction in the case.
Reporting by Chris Francescani in New York; Additional reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Philip Barbaraa