Foundation lobbies on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- The foundation created by seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong has mounted a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in an effort to counter accusations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.

On Tuesday, the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said the senator met in June with the Lance Armstrong Foundation's CEO and its chief lobbyist to discuss domestic and international cancer care as well as the possible consequences to the foundation from the proceeding against Armstrong.

"The topic of the discussion was the foundation's mission to fund their work with cancer survivors in the U.S. and their goal to expand their efforts overseas," Hutchison spokesman Tom Flanagan said in an email. "The issue of Lance Armstrong's case came up only in the context of how it could impact their ability to accomplish that mission."

Hutchison, a Texas Republican, is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. As a Texas-based non-profit, the foundation has had a long-standing relationship with Hutchison, who is a member of the Senate Cancer Caucus.

USADA had given Armstrong a deadline of last Saturday to either send the case against him to arbitration or accept sanctions from USADA. They would likely include a lifetime ban from cycling and other sports along with stripping the Tour titles he won from 1999-2005. USADA has granted Armstrong an extension of up to 30 days to contest the drug charges.

In addition to the meeting with Hutchison, a Washington lobbyist representing the foundation spoke last week with the staff of Rep. Jose Serrano about the USADA and its pending allegations against Armstrong, Serrano's spokesman confirmed Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the meeting with Serrano's staff.

Targeting Serrano for such a meeting hits the anti-doping agency in a sensitive spot. Serrano is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government, which oversees part of the agency's budget. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy provides $9 million a year to USADA.

The meeting was "substantially if not all about USADA and concerns about the process that Lance Armstrong is being put through," said Serrano spokesman Philip Schmidt.

The foundation recently hired one of Washington's most venerable and powerful law and lobbying firms, Patton Boggs, to represent it. The foundation, which provides support for people affected by cancer, was founded in 1997 by Armstrong, a cancer survivor.

Katherine McLane, the spokeswoman for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, says that "certainly USADA comes up" as the organization's representatives conduct outreach to Congress on cancer-related issues that have long formed the core of the foundation's agenda.

Regarding USADA, McLane said "people are concerned, we are very concerned and we have spoken publicly about the need for fairness and due process and we hope Lance is given the opportunity for the due process any American deserves in this respect."

"The foundation has worked with many firms in Washington over the course of the last decade to further the fight against cancer and we're pleased to partner with Patton Boggs on the important domestic policy issues that will have such an impact on cancer survivors and their families," said McLane.

McLane said papers would be filed with Congress on Wednesday confirming that Patton Boggs is representing the foundation.

In a statement last month on USADA, foundation CEO Doug Ulman said that "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."

In a July 12 letter to the White House, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., noted that in February, the Justice Department announced that it was dropping its investigation of drug-use allegations against Armstrong.

Congress designated USADA as the U.S.'s national anti-doping organization in 2000, but the agency is seeking to sanction Armstrong for conduct beginning in 1998. Sensenbrenner said that during Armstrong's career -- he retired last year -- the International Cycling Union had exclusive authority to sanction Armstrong for violation of its anti-doping rules.

Even if USADA had jurisdiction over Armstrong, the majority of Armstrong's cycling career should be protected by USADA's eight-year statute of limitations, Sensenbrenner added.

To circumvent the jurisdictional challenges and the statute of limitations, the agency alleges that Armstrong engaged in a sweeping conspiracy to violate anti-doping rules beginning in 1998 and extending to the present, Sensenbrenner said.