Lance Armstrong’s mea culpa before Oprah Winfrey and televised to a national audience set the wheels in motion for a massive legal firestorm aimed right at the disgraced cyclist.
“His liability is huge, both civilly and criminally,” says Daily News legal analyst Tom Harvey. “I think that he has substantial problems. He’s admitted perjury. There are statute of limitations issues, but if the feds want to get him, I think they can.”
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The Daily News has learned that SCA Promotions - the Dallas insurance company that withheld a bonus Armstrong was supposed to receive after winning the 2004 Tour de France - plans to sue Armstrong to try and recoup the $7.5 million and almost $5 million in legal fees and other damages, now that Armstrong has admitted doping.
Armstrong’s confession to Winfrey contradicts statements he made under oath in a 2006 deposition, when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong sued SCA in 2004 and SCA later agreed to pay Armstrong $7.5 million to settle the case. The statute of limitations on perjury expired years ago.
As the Daily News has also reported, the Department of Justice’s decision on whether to join the qui tam - or whistleblower - suit filed by Armstrong’s former teammate, Floyd Landis, in 2010, now lies with Attorney General Eric Holder. Harvey says that part one of the Armstrong interview “certainly makes the whistleblower suit much more attractive to the government.”
The DOJ had until Thursday to join the suit - which is not unsealed - and a DOJ spokeswoman would not comment on the status of the DOJ’s decision Thursday. But the DOJ reportedly got an extension while reps for Landis and Armstrong continue to negotiate.
“If it’s a decent lawsuit, the government will take it over and prosecute it. It’s become, I think, a fantastic lawsuit from what we know. (Armstrong’s) contract specifically referenced performance-enhancing drugs. You have him admitting he took performance-enhancing drugs,” says Harvey. “And by the way, on whistleblower suits, it’s treble damages. It was a $32 million contract (for Armstrong’s U.S. Postal team). That’s $96 million of exposure. So I think (the government) is definitely coming in. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t.”
The Sunday Times of London is also suing Armstrong for $1.5 million. Armstrong brought a libel action against the British newspaper after it published claims from “LA Confidential,” a book by journalists David Walsh and Pierre Ballester that claimed Armstrong used banned drugs. The newspaper paid Armstrong $500,000 to settle the case - and now it wants that settlement, and its legal fees and other costs, returned.
And Harvey says that Armstrong may not be free from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles resuming its investigation of him, a probe which was dropped a year ago without explanation.
“The fact that (Armstrong) perjured himself in those (earlier) depositions (in 2006), typically you’d have to prosecute him in a certain amount of time. Seven years later is probably too late, but because of the ongoing potential conspiracy, the fact that he’s worked with others to hide the fact that he’s been lying, could extend the statute,” says Harvey.
“The feds do it all the time with respect to drug dealers, mafias - they simply charge a conspiracy count and get around the statute of limitations issue,” Harvey adds. “He’s got problems. I don’t understand why (the U.S. Attorney in L.A.) didn’t do anything.”
Harvey said he was most perplexed with why Armstrong agreed to an interview at all.
“I’m still scratching my head as to what was the point of all this,” says Harvey. “I think what he’s trying to say - ‘I lied my ass off the last 10 years. Now I admitted it, so let’s just all move forward. They got me now, so what do I do? I’ll admit it. Now go away.’”