+reprinted from Today’s LATimes.com

Editor’s Note: Remember the giant drama and general WTF? from a few weeks ago when America’s greatest cycling champion (and often hated personality) was stripped of 7 Tour de France grand champion titles and given a lifetime ban by the American Anti-Doping Agency? It seemed a little… weird. (You can read the original story here.) It turns out I wasn’t the only one questioning the motives of the USADA or the timing of the ruling.

No idea where this will lead, but I’m pretty excited to see the USADA get called out and hopefully lose federal funding, or at the very least require a massive change in leadership/mission. In my wildest dreams this is what cycling really needs: a broad and open investigation beyond black and white dialogue. Did he dope? I don’t care. Does prosecuting him potentially harm cycling as a sport and mode of transportation in the US as a consequence, very likely. So let’s talk about more complicated things. Let’s have opinions and move the larger national conversation forward.

lance armstrongCyclist Lance Armstrong, shortly after USADA declared him a doper. (Graham Hughes/AP)
By Michael HiltzikSeptember 10, 2012, 8:04 a.m.
State Sen. Michael Rubio (D-East Bakersfield) and 22 of his legislative colleagues are demanding a congressional investigation of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.USADA is the quasi-governmental body known for stripping American athletes of their right to compete based on doping charges that it doesn’t have to prove in a court of law. USADA’s most recent target was Lance Armstrong.

The legislators’ demand, in a letter last week to U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, is a response to my column about USADA’s Armstrong ruling, which declared him a doper and purportedly stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles. (USADA almost certainly doesn’t have authority over the Tour de France.)

As the column observed, athletes charged by USADA don’t have anything resembling the due process rights afforded anyone facing charges in a U.S. court. USADA works through arbitration–but it makes the rules and manipulates the process so that athletes face daunting obstacles in trying to defend themselves.

Armstrong, who has consistently tested clean throughout his career, faced testimony from cycling teammates that they witnessed him doping. But his opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses or even learn what they’d been offered in return for testifying would have been limited by USADA’s procedures. He announced last month that he wouldn’t fight the agency under those conditions.

For a particularly grisly accounting of how USADA hammered an innocent athlete, take a look at this paper on its pursuit of sprinter LaTasha Jenkins, one of only three athletes to win a case against the agency in this rigged game. Warning: If you care about justice, it will turn your stomach.

Rubio told my colleague Lance Pugmire that he decided to ask for the investigation after reading my column. “It was clear from reading that story that once you sign up to compete and strive to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, you don’t have the same rights as most citizens do,” he said. “We felt it warranted review.”

That’s especially so given that USADA gets almost all of its budget from Congress–last year, nearly $9 million. Is that money being spent on a kangaroo court? It’s time for Congress to take a look.

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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