A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on Monday by Lance Armstrong against the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) but said the seven-time Tour de France winner can refile it within 20 days.
US District Judge Sam Sparks criticised Armstrong's lawyers for the 80-page filing in tossing it out, saying it smacked of a public relations move rather than a challenge to the body that imposes doping sanctions on US athletes.
But Sparks also said that he was not ruling on the merits of the lawsuit and that the US cycling legend was welcome to present it again with modifications. He advised Armstrong's lawyers to "omit any improper argument, rhetoric, or irrelevant material" in any future filing.
Armstrong's Austin-based lawyer Tim Herman told the Washington Post on Monday night that the suit would be refiled by Wednesday at the latest.
"We will refile in a format that conforms to what Judge Sparks wants," Herman told the newspaper in a telephone interview.
Armstrong hopes to prevent USADA from pressing on with doping charges against him. Armstrong has until Saturday to accept sanctions or challenge USADA's charges through arbitration.
Instead, Armstrong hoped to turn the entire system on its head, questioning USADA's jurisdiction and the legitimacy of its rules.
Armstrong's legal move, coming in the US cycling legend's hometown, claimed USADA procedures violate of his US constitutional right to a fair trial.
Armstrong, who has denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, also claims that USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart is pursuing a personal vendetta against him.
Armstrong, who won the Tour de France from 1999 through 2006 and has since retired from cycling, could be stripped of his Tour de France triumphs and banned from the sport for life over the charges.
"It is a testament to USADA's brazenness and callous disregard for its own mission that it seeks to strip Mr. Armstrong of his life's work," Armstrong's attorneys said in the lawsuit.
Armstrong wanted Sparks to issue an injunction banning USADA from pushing its case to an arbitration hearing, the next step in a process that could lead to the case being settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Armstrong's lawyers called USADA's hearing procedure a "kangaroo court" and said that Armstrong would not be able to launch a proper defence against the charges under USADA rules and would face irreversible harm if USADA proceeds.
Tygart, in a statement, said Armstrong's lawsuit is part of a bid to hide the truth about his misdeeds.
"We are confident the courts will continue to uphold the established rules which provide full constitutional due process and are designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport," Tygart said.
USADA charged Armstrong last month with being part of a doping conspiracy during his years as Tour de France champion, the move coming four months after a two-year US government probe into Armstrong ended with no criminal charges.
Armstrong has never tested positive, and says he has taken more than 500 drug tests in his career.
USADA claims to have nearly a dozen former Armstrong associates willing to testify against him and also to have blood samples from more recent events that indicate doping by Armstrong.
USADA has not made public the names of those witnesses, saying it wants to protect them from possible intimidation.
Armstrong has countered that witnesses, such as admitted dope cheat Floyd Landis, are not credible, while others may have grudges against him.
The New York Times reported last week that former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie are among those set to testify against Armstrong. All four are in this year's Tour de France field.
Armstrong also argues that any such investigation should be pursued by the International Cycling Union rather than USADA.