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Armstrong ruling questioned by doping experts

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UCI president Hein Verbruggen with Lance Armstrong in 2002

UCI president Hein Verbruggen with Lance Armstrong in 2002
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Expect to see Lance Armstrong in suit and tie this fall if his case goes to arbitration

Expect to see Lance Armstrong in suit and tie this fall if his case goes to arbitration
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Wobbling across on a fully flatted rear, Lance Armstrong crossed the line in first, a new record of 6:28 at the 2009 Leadville.

Wobbling across on a fully flatted rear, Lance Armstrong crossed the line in first, a new record of 6:28 at the 2009 Leadville.
(Image credit: Rob O'Dea)
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Lance Armstrong poses with his Damien Hirst-painted Trek at the conclusion of the 2009 Tour de France

Lance Armstrong poses with his Damien Hirst-painted Trek at the conclusion of the 2009 Tour de France
(Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong (USA) was one of the strongest riders in the 1998 worlds, seen here stretching Markus Zberg in an early break

Lance Armstrong (USA) was one of the strongest riders in the 1998 worlds, seen here stretching Markus Zberg in an early break
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The decision to strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and all results dated from 1 August, 1998 does not respect the anti-doping rules regarding the statute of limitations, according to doping law professor Antonio Rigozzi from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

Rigozzi suggests that the rules are being applied based on politics, not precedence and says the UCI has lost credibility by deciding to uphold USADA's decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour titles.

"The case is certainly unique in its scale but it's not a reason not to apply or even ignore the (anti-doping) rules, as we've seen," said Rigozzi to AFP.

In addition the professor has said ratifying USADA's decision is "giving precedence to politics over law."

The standard eight-year time limit for doping rule violations can be extended, as in Armstrong's case because the former Tour winner did not cooperate with authorities, CEO of USADA Travis Tygart said in late August.

"[If Armstrong had of] come in and been truthful, then the evidence might have been that the statute [of limitations] should apply," said Tygart to USA Today.

If Armstrong cooperated with USADA at the time he was charged he may have been lost just the 2004 and 2005 titles however the eight-year time frame can be extended when offences are covered-up. The evidence in USADA's Reasoned Decision and the findings of systematic doping at US Postal means the standard limits were not applied. These anti-doping rule violations are also of a fraudulent nature, according to Tygart.

There are others implicated in the Armstrong case that have not been stripped of their results and this is reason for concern says another Swiss sports lawyer Alexis Schoeb. Garmin-Sharp riders Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie admitted to doping during their careers and have been handed six-month bans while their results currently stand.

"We're focusing solely on him and we're accepting, in exchange for testimony favourable to the dossier, to have a number of other athletes spared by this tidal wave," said Schoeb.

"For some, we're applying the rules and for Armstrong we're not. There a touch of double standards."

Schoeb added that it would be suitable for Armstrong's case to go through the court system so an appropriate legal ruling and subsequent precedent could be put in place.

"In its current state, there are too many grey areas. Debate about the case is nevertheless positive because it gives us a chance to shake things up and invites us to question the business of sport," said Schoeb.

Any appeal is now in the hands of the World Anti-Doping Agency, who appears unlikely to appeal USADA's and the UCI's decision after stating "the process followed by USADA has at all times been appropriate and careful, and in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code)," however Professor Rigozzi believes that an appeal should take place.

"Their [WADA] goal shouldn't be to have convictions at all costs but just decisions in keeping with the applicable rule.

"If WADA does not appeal, its legitimacy will suffer from it. Its role should be to investigate the case both for the prosecution and for the defence."