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Armstrong legal team stumbles as it takes USADA to federal court to block doping charges
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) ¯¯¯ A federal judge handed Lance Armstrong a quick setback Monday as he went to court to save his seven Tour de France titles and his reputation as one of the greatest cyclists ever.
Armstrong filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency from moving ahead with charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his long career.
But within hours, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the 80-page complaint. He said it seemed more intended to whip up public opinion in Armstrong's favor that focus on the legal argument.
Sparks, however, did not rule on the merits of Armstrong's claims and will let him refile the lawsuit. Armstrong attorney Tim Herman said he could do that as early as Tuesday.
The suit claimed USADA rules violate athletes' constitutional right to a fair trial, and that the agency doesn't have jurisdiction in Armstrong's case. It also accuses USADA's chief executive, Travis Tygart, of waging a personal vendetta against the cancer survivor who won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005.
The judge was not impressed.
"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 the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims," Sparks wrote.
Herman said he got the message.
"When (Sparks) speaks, I listen," he said. "It doesn't change the legal issues involved or any of the relief that we seek. I certainly heard what Judge Sparks said. I intend to conform my conduct precisely."
The lawsuit was an aggressive, and expected, move as Armstrong seeks to preserve his racing legacy and his place as an advocate for cancer survivors and research. He wants Sparks to bar USADA from pursuing its case or issuing any sanctions against him.
Armstrong asked the court to issue an injunction by Saturday, his deadline to formally challenge the case against him in USADA's arbitration process or accept the agency's sanctions. He could receive a lifetime ban from cycling and be stripped of his Tour de France victories if found guilty. He originally faced a Monday deadline but USADA allows athletes to request an automatic five-day extension.
Armstrong insists he is innocent.
"The process (USADA) seek to force upon Lance Armstrong is not a fair process and truth is not its goal," his lawsuit said, calling the USADA process a corrupt "kangaroo court."
Tygart said Armstrong's lawsuit is "aimed at concealing the truth" and predicted Sparks will rule in the agency's favor.
USADA, created in 2000 and recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States, formally charged Armstrong in June with taking performance-enhancing drugs and participating in a vast doping conspiracy on his Tour de France winning teams, some of which were sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.
The charges came after a two-year federal criminal investigation of Armstrong ended in February with no charges filed. The anti-doping agency, however, says up to 10 former teammates and associates are willing to testify against him and that it has blood samples from 2009-2010 that are "fully consistent" with doping.
Armstrong, who retired in 2011, says he has passed more than 500 drug tests in his career and was never flagged for a positive test.