The Armstrong case - UCI's responseAndrew Nixon
We outlined the USADA's decision in the last edition of The Sport Lawyer and commented that the issue remained whether UCI would accept USADA's report or challenge their jurisdiction. UCI's statement this week makes it clear that the governing body accepts USADA's findings and it has endorsed the sanctions imposed by stripping Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and banning him from cycling for life. It is open to Armstrong himself to appeal against UCI's decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; however, given that he has already abandoned challenging USADA's decision, such a course of action seems unlikely.
In terms of the true fall out from this case, the UCI ruling may be the tip of the iceberg. Both Nike and Oakley, two of Armstrong's commercial sponsors, have activated termination clauses in their contracts with the athlete. Other claims also appear to be on the horizon which could amount to $15 million. SCA Promotions, a Texas based insurance firm who underwrote the US Postal Team's performance bonus programme during Armstrong's career, are pursuing Armstrong for $11 million. As Armstrong is no longer the "official winner" of any Tour, insurers are seeking to clawback a $7.5million payout in 2004, together with past bonuses, legal fees and interest.
There is also the prospect of a claim for recovery of prize money paid out to Armstrong which may force him to account for an accumulated £2.4 million earned from the Tour over his career. Some of that was shared with his cycling team, many of whom have also been implicated in USADA's report. The race director has also requested that no official tour winner be declared for the seven races, maintaining that they cannot be sure that any rider during that period was clean.
UCI's statement is a logical step in the wake of USADA's report and Armstrong's refusal to challenge the findings. The governing body's reputation has not gone untarnished as the case has exposed an era (under the UCI's governance) in which doping was allegedly widespread. To have appealed the USADA ruling in light of such compelling and wide ranging witness evidence would therefore have been the wrong decision. The UCI can now at least claim to be taking positive action in cleaning up the sport and punishing those who cheat.
The prize money, bonuses, lawsuit settlements and sponsorship monies are now all under scrutiny and may well result in Armstrong paying most of the money back. UCI's wish that Armstrong should be "forgotten" from cycling may not occur for quite some time while such issues remain undetermined.
Andrew Nixon is a Senior Associate and Ashley Wootton is a Solicitor in the Sports Group.
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About the Author
Andrew Nixon is a Partner in the Sport Group at Sheridans. Referred to in this year's Legal 500 as a “very bright and talented sports lawyer” Andrew's practice focuses principally on regulatory, governance, disciplinary, arbitration and dispute resolution within the sport sector. Andrew's clients include governing bodies, sports clubs, sports agencies and individual athletes.