Random thoughts on Lance

Published 29 October 2012 | Authored by: Jack Anderson

I thought that two points were of interest on the Armstrong affair. First, the idea the sponsors etc might seek the return of bonuses from Armstrong; and second, who, if anyone, should be awarded the Tours now stripped from Armstrong.

Sponsors: we want our money back

The issue of wanting bonuses etc back is interesting but it sounds much easier in theory than in practice. Sports lawyer Mark Gay was very good on the subject on BBC Radio 4 Today's programme on Tuesday 23 October and the below distils (i.e., plagiarises) his comments.

A sponsor who entered into a contract with Armstrong back at his "peak" might face difficulties in terms of statute of limitations (typically six years in contract disputes though there might be a possibility that you could get around this by claiming fraud on Armstrong's part but legal fraud as opposed to sporting fraud would be very difficult to prove – the WADA codes as has a time bar and with Armstrong it would mean investigations could only begin around 2004). Other difficulties include the fact that at the time, in the 2000s, that various sponsors/companies paid to sponsor and invest in a multiple Tour de France winner and, bluntly, that is what they got in the sense that that is what many of us believed at the time i.e., they got their money's/consideration's worth. A retrospective claim based on what we now know for this sponsorship/investment would be difficult to sustain. Moreover, they would be various (costly and lengthy) jurisdictional issues in pursuing Armstrong. Finally, as with all of these things you have to follow the money. The various sponsorships, prizewinning etc "earned" by Armstrong were likely paid into management/agency accounts and are very unlikely to be held by Armstrong personally. Again, very difficult to locate/get this money.

Sponsors who currently sponsor Armstrong may have the best chance if the contract contains a morality clause.

Overall, Armstrong is likely to face litigation that will drain his resources but how effective that will be in the end is difficult to predict.

 

The Tour de France: we want our titles back

In its reasoned decision the USADA thinks that Tour titles should not be given to other riders who finished on the podium, such was the level of doping during Armstrong's era. The USASA said 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been "directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations" or other means and of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists "similarly tainted by doping".

Lawyers will have great fun (and accumulate large fees) determining the phrase "similarly tainted". If you apply the USADA's approach strictly, then in one year you'd have to go down to the 10th place finisher to find a "winner" of Le Tour.

The NY Times is less exacting than USADA but still it has said that since 1998, more than a third of the top finishers of the Tour de France have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in their careers or have been officially linked to doping – see here.

Legal technicalities aside, one of the better quotes on cycling during the Armstrong era is from a former Armstrong rival Filippo Simeoni of Italy who told The Associated Press that the succession issue was "a good question. That entire decade was one big bluff." See further here.

Overall, not sure what to make of it but having read David Millar's book recently, the last few months' events were inevitable.

The suggestion that there should be an amnesty/truth commission for cycling might have some merit – something strongly cathartic without the adversarial elements of a court/arbitration hearing probably needs to be done.

If anyone in the UCI or Wada is reading this – very doubtful – please note that I am available to act as a truth commissioner!!!

About the Author

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson is Professor and Director of Sports Law Studies at the University of Melbourne. The sports law program at Melbourne was one of the first to be established globally in the mid-1980 and continues to expand at the Melbourne Law School, which itself is ranked in the top 10 law schools globally.

Jack has published widely in the area including monographs such as The Legality of Boxing (Routledge 2007) and Modern Sports Law (Hart 2010) and edited collections such as Landmark Cases in Sports Law (Asser 2013) and EU Sports Law (Edward Elgar 2018 with R Parrish and B Garcia). He was Editor-in-Chief of the International Sports Law Journal based at the International Sports Law Centre at the Asser Institute from 2013 to 2016. 

Appointed as an arbitrator to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2016,  he became a member of the inaugural International Amateur Athletics Federation’s Disciplinary Tribunal and the International Hockey Federation’s Integrity Unit in 2017. In 2018, he was the sole CAS arbitrator at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. In 2019, he was appointed to the International Tennis Federation’s Ethics Commission. He is currently chair of the Advisory Group establishing a National Sports Tribunal for Australia

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