WASHINGTON - A US lawmaker urged the Office of National Drug Control Policy on Thursday to investigate the US Anti-Doping Agency in the wake of its charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
House of Representatives member Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, sent a letter on Thursday asking ONDCP director Gil Kerlikowske to investigate how the sports doping watchdog spend about $9 million a year in US taxpayer funding.
The move comes exactly one month after USADA informed Armstrong it had taken formal action against him, leading to doping charges against Armstrong and five other men that the agency says engaged in a doping conspiracy during the US star's Tour de France run.
Three men were issued life bans by USADA earlier this week.
Armstrong has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, citing more than 500 doping tests without a positive -- a defense weakened by such disgraced admitted dope cheats as Marion Jones having passed similar tests for years.
"The US Congress has no role in determining whether an individual athlete doped, but we do have a great interest in how taxpayer money is spent," Sensenbrenner wrote.
"As USADA's main funding source, ONDCP should take interest in the agency's conduct. Nonetheless, I have found virtually no evidence of ONDCP oversight of USADA... ONDCP should take a serious interest in how its funds are spent."
Armstrong has filed a lawsuit in US District Court in his hometown of Austin, Texas, to have USADA's charges dismissed, saying its arbitration system of settling challenges is unconstitutional.
Armstrong also claims USADA lacks jurisdiction to make such charges, which he says should be brought by the International Cycling Union.
USADA has granted Armstrong a 30-day extension to respond to the charges against him so the court can rule upon the merits of his lawsuit.
"USADA seeks to strip Armstrong of his achievements and the substantial winnings that accompanied them without offering him even basic due process," Sensenbrenner said.
"The alleged lack of fairness raises concerns for athletes of all levels, the majority of whom lack the resources and platform to challenge USADA's actions."
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the arbitration process is fair.
"The case against all those involved in the USPS Pro-Cycling Team doping conspiracy, including Lance Armstrong was not brought lightly," Tygart said.
"The evidence is overwhelming, and were we not to bring this case, we would be complicit in covering up evidence of doping, and failing to do our job on behalf of those we are charged with protecting.
The US Justice Department ended an investigation into Armstrong last February without making any criminal charges against him.
"USADA's authority over Armstrong is strained at best," Sensenbrenner said. "To circumvent its jurisdictional challenges and its statute of limitations, USADA has adopted a novel conspiracy theory."
Sensenbrenner wants to know whether ONDCP has analyzed USADA processes and done any oversight or procedural review of the agency, whether ONDCP approves of USADA looking into the same issues the US Justice Department studied, whether it was told of the Armstrong probe and whether ONDCP considers USADA's investigation unbiased.