Setback for Lance Armstrong as arbitration panel says it will hear $12m bonus case
News follows reports that ex-USPS rider has been speaking to UCI
Lance Armstrong’s attempt to prevent an insurance company from claiming back bonuses it had insured in 2006 relating to three of the seven Tour de France wins he was stripped of last year has hit a setback after an arbitration panel in Texas said it would consider the appeal brought by the business concerned, SCA Promotions.
The news comes days after it was revealed that representatives of Armstrong had been approached by the UCI to explore whether he might give evidence to the independent commission set up by new president Brian Cookson who is attempting to repair the governing body’s reputation.
SCA Promotions paid Armstrong a total of $12 million in bonuses for his victories in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 editions of the Tour de France. Initially, the Dallas-based company had sought to withhold the money as allegations circulated that the former US Postal Service rider was doping.
Armstrong sued SCA Promotions for the money in 2005 and the following year it reached an out-of-court settlement with him and his team’s management company, Tailwind Sports.
SCA Promotions signed legal papers that barred it from seeking to recover any money, but following his confession to Oprah Winfrey earlier this year said that it had been misled into settling with him due to his having lied under oath.
However, the three-member panel that heard that original case has determined by a 2-1 decision that the settlement reached in 2006 did empower it to arbitrate future disputes between the parties, according to Bloomberg.
The panel said that it “does have and will exercise jurisdiction to determine and make a final award resolving any disputes between or among Tailwind Sports Corp., Lance Armstrong, and SCA Promotions Inc.,” reports the website.
Jeffrey Dorough, acting for SCA Promotions, told Bloomberg: “There’s still a fight ahead but at least we’re allowed to get in the ring at this point.”
Armstrong’s attorney, Tim Herman, insists however that the latest ruling only relates to the issue of the panel hearing the case once more and not whether his client is liable to return any money.
Quoted on ESPN, he said: "no party may challenge, appeal or attempt to set aside" that earlier ruling which he maintained was "fully and forever binding."
He added: "Nothing has changed on the merits of this case."
At the first Management Committee meeting of Cookson’s presidency earlier this week, the governing body confirmed that among the issues approved was the decision to establish an independent commission to look into allegations of wrongdoing at the UCI, including claims it helped cover up positive tests on samples taken from Armstrong.
Subsequently, the BBC reported that Armstrong’s representatives had been contacted over the issue of his giving evidence. In June, the Texan had asked Cookson on Twitter whether, if elected president, he would establish a commission to "fully understand the mistakes of previous generations".
Cookson said he would, and that his principal focus would be to investigate what role, if any, the UCI had played in covering up doping – a process that has now been set in motion, with the independent commission due to be established in the coming weeks and to report in the new year.
It’s unclear whether Armstrong will play any role, however. While the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) asserts he took drugs after coming out of retirement ahead of the 2009 season, he has only confessed to doping up until 2005.
Talks between Armstrong and USADA CEO Travis Tygart about Armstrong telling all to the agency broke down in February, with Tygart saying that the former pro “was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so.”
Armstrong faces legal challenges on a number of fronts, with potentially the most damaging being the whistleblower action brought by former team mate Floyd Landis, which the federal government has joined.