Armstrong, now for the lawsuits

MICHAEL FORBES, SIMON DAY AND AGENCIES
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
Lance Armstrong
Getty Images
OPENING UP: Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong talks with Oprah Winfrey.

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Ninety minutes of confessional with Oprah Winfrey may have cost disgraced former cycling champion Lance Armstrong at least $12 million.

Moments after Armstrong's admission yesterday that he used an array of performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles, those who paid the 41-year-old millions in performance bonuses were talking about getting their money back.

Texas-based company SCA Promotions said it would sue Armstrong if he did not pay them back $12 million in bonus money.

He did not deserve, and was not entitled to, the money, SCA lawyer Jeff Tillotson said.

"Lance Armstrong's statements were jaw-dropping to my clients, because he basically admitted that everything he told us in his sworn deposition was untrue."

American law professor Geoffrey Rapp said Armstrong's startling confession that he cheated his way to the top could result in other legal problems. "Now that he's said, ‘I was doing it the whole time,' he's taken away what would be his real defence."

Former United States federal prosecutor Matt Orwig said Armstrong could also face new defamation claims from the numerous people he attacked over the years for accusing him of doping.

"There are lawyers across the country representing various interests who are recording that interview," he said. "From a legal perspective, his issues are becoming more difficult, not less."

Armstrong previously sued the Sunday Times in London for libel after reporter David Walsh wrote about his role in cycling's doping culture.

He won a $500,000 judgment against the newspaper, which is now suing to get the money back.

In the first instalment of his two-part interview with Winfrey, Armstrong called himself "deeply flawed" and acknowledged his confession may have come too late for most people.

"[This was] one big lie, that I repeated a lot of times," he said. "This story was so perfect for so long. It's this myth, this perfect story, and it wasn't true."

Armstrong got the monkey off his back in the first 30 seconds, rattling off "yes" after "yes" as Winfrey asked if he had ever used the banned substances Erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormones.

It was an intense turnaround after 13 years of staunch denials, even after the US Anti-Doping Agency produced a 1000-page dossier in October that included testimony from nearly a dozen former team-mates, which led to Tour titles being stripped and a life ban from sport.

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But yesterday Armstrong quite calmly said doping was as much a part of cycling as having air in your tyres or water in your bottle.

He dodged few questions and refused to implicate anyone else, even as he said it was humanly impossible to win seven straight Tours without doping.

"I'm not comfortable talking about other people," he said. "I don't want to accuse anybody."

New Zealander Stephen Swart, the former team-mate of Armstrong who blew the whistle on his drug-taking and started his demise, said he finally felt vindicated.

After watching the 90-minute interview from his Coromandel holiday home, Mr Swart believed many questions remain unanswered by Armstrong.

"He is looking for a bit of compassion along the way. But all of the facts are out there [about] what he has done. As far of the rest of that goes, there are few blanks in his statements."

During the interview watched by millions around the world, Armstrong admitted to being a "bully", but he denied ordering team-mates to take banned substances.

Mr Swart said he did feel pressure from Armstrong. "If it wasn't through him, it was through management. You can apply the pressure by saying we have to perform."

United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said Armstrong's admission was "a small step in the right direction" for the shamed cyclist. But it would take more than just a confession on Winfrey's couch to make things right. "If he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities."

World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey derided Armstrong's defence that he doped to create "a level playing field" in the Tour de France as "a convenient way of justifying what he did - a fraud."

"He was wrong, he cheated and there was no excuse for what he did."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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