A report in the Wall Street Journal claims that a registered lobbyist working for Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation approached an influential member of Congress to discuss the actions of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Armstrong has been accused by USADA of not only using performance enhancing drugs throughout his career but also engaging in a conspiracy together with his US Postal and Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel and doctors Pedro Celaya, Luis Garcia del Moral, Michele Ferrari and trainer Jose "Pepe" Martí.
The latter three have already accepted bans for life from engaging in any sport which is a signatory to the WADA code.
Bruyneel last week announced he will go to arbitration while Armstrong is weighing up his next move having been granted a 30-day extension following the original July 14 deadline. He is facing a lifetime ban and denies ever using performance enhancing drugs.
Armstrong founded Livestrong in 1997 following his recovery from aggressive testicular cancer.
According to a spokesperson for Congressman José Serrano, the lobbyist broached the "fairness" of the USADA case against the Livestrong Chairman, the Wall Street Journal reported. Congressman Serrano sits on the House Appropriations Committee whose role it is to set government funding. USADA currently receives $9 million of government funding as part of its $15 million annual budget.
The lobbyist was not identified but the Foundation's website is currently prominently featuring a blog entry titled: "Livestrong Cancer Advocates Hit the Hill" promoting their movements last week in Washington, D.C.
A spokesperson for the Livestrong Foundation told the Wall Street Journal that the description of the meeting was "inaccurate".
Last week, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent an open letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) querying the $9 million dollars of tax payer funding given to USADA. The move was then followed by United States Senator John McCain backing the USADA investigation into Armstrong and his associates, saying that the Agency's rules and processes applied to all U.S. athletes "regardless of their public profile or success in sport."
A spokesperson for Congressman Sensenbrenner told the newspaper that "nobody from his office had any contact with any individuals associated with Mr. Armstrong in the weeks leading up to his letter."
While the lobbyist's actions are not illegal, the Foundation has been steadfast in its support of its Chairman. At the end of last month, Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman released a statement saying:
"We are concerned about the integrity and oversight of this proceeding and hope that Lance will be given the opportunity he deserves to assert his innocence.
"As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which prizes transparency and the highest standards of governance, we struggle to understand the leadership choices and apparent lack of openness by another non-profit, funded predominantly by the federal government with U.S. tax dollars."
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