Lance Armstrong set to testify under oath after appeal refused in $12m case?
End in sight for dispute that dates back to 2004?
Former pro cyclist lance Armstrong is facing another court battle after a judge refused his appeal to have a dispute over bonus payments from his run of Tour de France wins dismissed.
SCA Promotions, a Dallas sports insurance company, is seeking to recover $12 million it paid Armstrong in 2006 after Armstrong sued to secure payment of win bonuses from his 2002, 2003 and 2004 Tour de France victories. SCA had refused to pay because of suspicions that Armstrong had doped to achieve those and other wins.
When Armstrong was stripped of those titles at the end of 2012 and confessed to doping on the Oprah Winfrey Show early the following year, SCA and others began to demand back money paid to Armstrong as win bonuses.
Lawyers for Armstrong and SCA have been going at it ever since. Armstrong’s lawyers say that the 2006 settlement was final and canot be reopened, while SCA’s accuse Armstrong of perjury when he claimed not to have used performance-enhancing drugs.
In this latest twist, the Texas Court of Appeals has sent the case back to the three-man arbitration panel that heard the 2006 case and that decided to reopen the case in October last year.
"Mr. Armstrong engaged in rampant perjury and committed outrageous acts of witness intimidation in his lawsuit with SCA," SCA's attorney, Jeffrey Tillotson, told Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today Sports. "With this opinion from the Court of Appeals, SCA will now proceed to have Mr. Armstrong punished for such conduct."
Armstrong and Tailwind Sports, the company that managed his former US Postal Service team, reached an out-of-court settlement with SCA Promotions in 2006 after he had sued it to pay the bonuses it had insured for winning the race in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
In 2013, after his televised confession to Oprah Winfrey that he had doped during all seven of those Tour de France wins, SCA sought to reopen the case and last October the same three-man arbitration panel that had heard the original proceedings agreed.
Since then, Armstrong and Tailwind Sports have tried to block the action, saying that the 2006 settlement means that SCA waived any rights to have the case reopened.
They cite a clause in the settlement that reads “no party may challenge, appeal or attempt to set aside" the money paid, and that the agreement is "fully and forever binding."
However, in a ruling on the case dated October 29 last year, two of the arbitrators, Richard Faulkner and Richard Chernick, describe that settlement as no more than “the private equivalent of temporary ‘cease-fire.’”
They added: “Hostilities between these parties resumed and continued as anticipated albeit at varying intensity. … The ability of both tribunals to address and determine disputes within the parameters of the parties’ agreements is unquestioned.”
The third member of the panel, Lyons, believes however that it has no power to “re-decide claims that were resolved seven years ago.”
He wrote: “What Armstrong did, if true, is morally reprehensible, but the law does not allow this Panel to address it at this time.”
Lyons was appointed to the panel – and is remunerated - by Armstrong, while Chernick is SCA’s appointee, and Faulkner was jointly appointed by both parties.
In late February, a judge in Dallas rejected his request to stop the arbitration panel from rehearing the case, and set a date of 17 March for it to be heard.
On Tuesday March 4, the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals called a halt to all proceedings and said that the court would review the entire case later that month.
That court has now decided to allow the arbitration panel to hear SCA’s case.
Armstrong has admitted lying under oath in a deposition he gave in 2005 relating to this case. It is unlikely he will face perjury proceedings in relation to that due to a statute of limitations.
His reluctance to submit himself to testifying under oath again as SCA wishes may partly be due to his insistence that he did not dope after he came out of retirement in 2009, something the United States Anti-Doping Agency said he did.
Any admission on Armstrong’s part that he did use performance-enhancing drugs during that period could result in his former sponsors seeking to recoup money from him, since such actions would not currently be time-barred.
In November last year, he avoided having to give sworn testimony in a case brought by Acceptance Insurance, which had insured his Tour de France bonuses from 1999 to 2001, by making a last-minute out-of-court settlement.
He still faces other lawsuits including one brought by former US Postal teammate Floyd Landis under whistleblower legislation relating to wrongful use of federal funds, which has been joined by the US Government.
That action could potentially see Armstrong hit with a penalty of up to nearly $100 million.
Simon 'legal eagle' MacMichael contributed to this story.