Analysis: What is next for Lance Armstrong?
BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — This one is anything but over.
The curtains keep falling, endlessly, around former world champion Lance Armstrong, whom the UCI finally stripped of his seven Tour wins on Monday, as it categorically upheld a searing U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report issued earlier this month.
While the announcement signals the drowning of Armstrong’s palmarès — the sport’s best-ever Tour rider is now the 1993 world champion and two-time Tour stage winner — his footprint is so expansive at the intersection of sport, culture and commerce that it’s unlikely the charismatic Armstrong will fade to black, and it won’t be his choice.
Since the meaty USADA dossier landed, Armstrong has lost deals with longtime sponsors Nike, Trek, Anheuser-Busch and Oakley. A recent Forbes report pegged the potential dollar value of the lost endorsement revenue at $150 million over the duration of Armstrong’s life.
But that’s money coming in. Armstrong will likely have to dig into his own pocket in his post-Tour-winner apocalypse. The hangfire of the SCA Promotions case still looms above, as the firm paid Armstrong $5 million in bonuses for a sixth consecutive Tour title in 2004, though he had to wrestle the money away from SCA in court, as the firm believed Armstrong used PEDs to achieve his sterling results. All told, SCA paid $7.5 million to Armstrong — $5 million for the initial bonus, plus an additional $2.5 million in fees. The firm said on Monday that it wants its money back, and is arming itself to get it, voluntarily or not.
What’s more, Armstrong may find himself providing information at the USADA hearing of his former boss next month.
Armstrong’s director for each of his seven Tour wins, Johan Bruyneel, is also under the USADA gun, and elected to enter into arbitration, contesting the laundry-list of drug charges stacked against him. USADA CEO Travis Tygart has said Bruyneel’s case will be heard before the end of the year, and that he may tap Armstrong to testify, under oath. “Lance Armstrong could be heard as a witness in this case, under oath, like the others. If there’s perjury, it’s serious…” Tygart told French Daily L’Equipe in September. An arbitration hearing affords the involved parties the subpoena power that USADA’s investigation lacked.
And what about London’s Sunday Times? The paper announced just after the USADA file’s publication that it may take legal action against Armstrong, who hung a libel suit around the paper’s neck, suing it and two of its reporters over a 2004 story alleging doping. The Times issued a public apology and though the terms of the payment wasn’t disclosed, it’s believed to have cost the newspaper $1 million.
All this may turn out to be small potatoes compared to the possibility — and probability — of another lawsuit, be it civil or federal. It’s widely known that the evidence Jeff Novitzky and his team of federal investigators turned up during its almost two-year investigation is locked away, hidden from the public eye and unavailable to USADA. The better question is, what’s it doing there? Former Armstrong teammate and firestarter Floyd Landis was reported to have filed a federal whistleblower suit against Armstrong in 2010, but that front has been hushed as the federal investigation into Armstrong made waves before its abrupt closure and USADA stepped in to torch one of cycling’s all-time icons. It’s certainly possible that case could come up again, and soon. Landis declined comment on Monday when contacted by VeloNews.
It’s clear that even as the sporting world contracts around Armstrong, this is anything but over. And as the curtains keep falling we’re left to wonder just how much fabric remains.