Lance Armstrong’s preparations for a bike season with Team RadioShack may be disrupted next March if he is called to testify in the ongoing legal dispute between bike manufacturer Trek and Greg LeMond.
Three times Tour de France winner LeMond alleges that Trek, which is based in Wisconsin, breached its contract with him to make and distribute bicycles under his name because of pressure exerted by Armstrong. In a preliminary hearing on Wednesday in Minnesota, where LeMond lives, a US District Judge deferred ruling on two motions to give a summary judgment.
That means that the case could still go to full trial next March – with courtroom action expected to provide drama as explosive as anything either of the American cycling legends have produced on the road.
The New York Daily News yesterday reported that District Judge Richard Kyle was aware that the gloves – or perhaps mitts, in this case – could well come off in the courtroom if the case went to trial, adding that the two parties’ attorneys had said that he had suggested that they try to reach an out-of-court settlement.
The paper quoted LeMond’s attorney, James DiBoise, as saying: "We're certainly not averse to settling it," while Ralph Weber, representing Trek, was reported as anticipating a meeting to take place soon so the parties could discuss holding talks over settlement.
The newspaper provided a detailed analysis of the background to the dispute last weekend. In essence, the facts are that LeMond sued Trek in March 2008 for what he saw as its lack of support for his bicycle brand, which it made, marketed sold and distributed on his behalf, which he believes was made at Armstrong’s behest.
LeMond claims that Armstrong’s alleged involvement is due to a 2001 Sunday Times article that spoke of Armstrong’s links to controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, in which LeMond was quoted as having said: “If Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If he isn't, it would be the greatest fraud."
Trek, for its part, has countersued LeMond, saying that he did not meet his obligations to it, including his public criticism of Arsmtrong who, of course, rode Trek bikes to his seven Tour de France wins and continues to work with the brand today.
LeMond was accompanied to the hearing by his wife, Kathy, who told the New York Daily News: “We were very happy with the summary judgment hearing today. Judge Kyle raised some very interesting hypothetical questions and we were grateful for his thoughtful questions."
LeMond, one of the most outspoken members of the cycling community when it comes to doping – and almost certainly the highest-profile rider to have attacked drugs cheats on a regular basis – is no stranger to courtroom controversy.
Two years ago, he stunned a courtroom during an arbitration hearing concerning disgraced Tour de France ‘winner’ Floyd Landis, who had worn the yellow jersey on top of the podium in Paris in 2006 before being stripped of his title after it was revealed he had used testosterone on Stage 17.
On that occasion, the court fell silent as LeMond, testifying for the US Anto-Doping Agency, revealed that Landis’s business manager, Will Geoghegan, had tried to blackmail him into not testifying by threatening to reveal details of sexual abuse LeMond had suffered as a child, which he had told Geoghegan about in confidence.
Should Trek and LeMond’s attorneys fail to reach an out-of-court settlement, we can expect some equally gripping courtroom drama come next March.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.