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By The Associated Press
AUSTIN, TEXAS – A former personal assistant of Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong who has been sued by the cyclist fired back Wednesday, accusing the cyclist of fraud, breach of contract and causing him severe emotional distress.
Mike Anderson, 33, on Wednesday filed his counterclaim to a lawsuit Armstrong filed last month in Travis County District Court.
In the original lawsuit, Armstrong said Anderson wanted $500,000 and other benefits under a claimed employment contract.
Anderson said Armstrong’s lawsuit ruined his reputation as a bike mechanic and publicly humiliated him. He is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
At the center of the dispute is whether an e-mail Anderson alleges Armstrong sent him in 2002 stands as an employment contract. Armstrong has said there was no contract and that Anderson served as an at-will employee.
Anderson’s filing did not provide a copy of the e-mail, but said it offered to pay him $3,000 a month and health benefits. He also said Armstrong pledged to help Anderson open a bike shop when his employment was finished.
In return, Anderson says he worked as Armstrong’s bike mechanic, trainer and personal confidant and assistant and traveled to Europe.
Anderson’s attorney, Hal Gillespie, said Anderson is seeking to make Armstrong live up to the cyclist’s alleged agreement with his client.
“We tried to avoid a lawsuit,” Gillespie said. “We were forced into it. We are certainly sorry this has come to litigation.”
Armstrong attorney Timothy Herman said he hadn’t seen Anderson’s court filing but that Anderson was an at-will employee, “just like everybody else in Texas who does not have an employment contract. We all know we can be hired and fired at anytime.”
Anderson said he was fired about two months after he asked for and got a $500 a month raise. He said Armstrong’s representatives offered him a severance package totaling $7,000.
Anderson said Armstrong also demanded he sign a confidentiality agreement that would have held him liable for up to $1 million in damages.
Armstrong’s representatives said they sued because Anderson demanded $300,000 for him and his wife and another $200,000 to be split between two law firms that represent Anderson.
“That is not typical of a separation package for someone making $36,000,” Herman said, adding the confidentiality agreement is not unusual for a celebrity like Armstrong.
Anderson’s countersuit said his family struggled financially while he worked for Armstrong and that his wife had given up her massage therapy clients to travel with him.