Lance Armstrong loses $10m lawsuit
Self-confessed drugs cheat Lance Armstrong had sued sponsor that failed to pay him Tour de France bonus
Life doesn't get any better for Lance Armstrong, the former cycling champion whose fall from grace has been spectacular since he admitted his sporting career was built on doping. Having been banned from the sport for life and stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005, Armstrong now has to pay $10m (£6.51m) in damages after losing a lawsuit with insurance firm SCA Promotions.
The legal battle began in 2004 when Armstrong sued SCA Promotions "for breach of contract after it withheld his bonus for winning the Tour de France". As USA Today reports, Armstrong was so furious with the company he and his team took out a full-page advertisement in SportsBusiness Journal in order to sully their name.
"SCA's failure to pay the final instalment of its policy is a shameful and baseless breach of contract," thundered the ad. But SCA, who had paid out bonuses the previous two years, refused to be intimidated by the wrath of Armstrong, then one of the most powerful and iconic figures in world sport. USA Today says "the company put its reputation at risk for its stance but wouldn't back down [because] it suspected Armstrong had cheated to win the race and didn't want to pay him if he did."
The dispute was sent to arbitration in 2005 and SCA Promotions attorney Jeffrey Tillotson questioned Armstrong about banned drug use. The Texan rider denied he had ever doped and won his case because the contract signed between the two parties stipulated the insurance money would be payable if Armstrong was the Tour's "official winner". He was awarded $2.5m (£1.6m) in damages and costs.
The panel that on Monday ordered Armstrong to pay $10m in damages to SCA said in its ruling that "perjury must never be profitable", and criticised the cyclist and Tailwind Sports, the company that managed Armstrong's cycling team, for their conduct. They had "expressed no remorse to the panel for their wrongful conduct and continued to lie to the panel throughout the final hearing even while admitting to prior falsehoods and other wrongful conduct."
The damning indictment was music to the ears of SCA Promotions president and founder Bob Hamman, who told reporters after the verdict: "It is hard to describe how much harm Lance Armstrong's web of lies caused SCA but this is a good first start towards repairing that damage."
Tillotson slammed Armstrong's "outrageous conduct" and there may yet be further repercussions for the disgraced champion with a second SCA lawsuit pending in Dallas for additional claims.
Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman, told USA Today his client would fight what the paper described as the "largest such sanction against an individual in American judicial history". In a statement Herman said: "This award is unprecedented. No court or arbitrator has ever reopened a matter which was fully and finally settled voluntarily. In this matter SCA repeatedly affirmed that it never relied upon anything Armstrong said or did in deciding to settle [in 2006]."
The ruling is the latest blow to Armstrong's battered reputation at a time when he is facing another fraud lawsuit, this one from the federal government, which is seeking redress to the tune of $100m. Throw in the charges he faces for allegedly failing to report an accident and driving too fast following an incident last month in Colorado, and Armstrong can hardly sink any lower.