The ongoing lawsuit between Lance Armstrong and SCA Promotions, the sports insurance company, heated up this week. First, Armstrong lost his appeal for temporary relief, which (if it had been successful) would have blocked the company from collecting $12 million in prize money that Lance Armstrong was paid for his 2002, 2003, and 2004 Tour de France victories. The loss of this appeal came during a bad week for the disgraced former cyclist, coming as it did just days after the denial of his appeal to the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals.
Lance Armstrong had sought to prevent an arbitration panel from re-convening in the matter of SCA’s ongoing suit.
The ongoing legal dispute stems from a 2006 settlement between the cyclist and SCA. In the proceedings leading up to that settlement, Armstrong testified (in November 2005) that “I’ve never taken performance-enhancing.”
Both the cyclist and his former racing team insist that the 2006 settlement was the final word on the matter, despite Armstrong’s having admitted on national television, to Oprah Winfrey, that he had been doping during those victories.
Naturally, SCA Promotions and their attorney, Jeff Tillotson, view the cyclist’s televised confession to perjury in a different light. Tillotson said as much to USA Today on Friday:
“Our position is simple. No one should be able to relentlessly perjure themselves and get away with it.”
The case looks relatively simple at first glance. Lance Armstrong was under oath in 2005, and he made statements that he knew then were false. (At least, we assume Armstrong knew that a man named Lance Armstrong was doping him. We have only the victim’s (Mr. Armstrong’s) word for it. The man accused of doping him, one Lance Armstrong, has not admitted to having told his victim that he was being given performance enhancing drugs. Let’s be straight about this, even if the record gives us trouble about the details.)
The general public should be excused if, a year after his televised confession, they are confused as to why Armstrong would insist that the original settlement, which was based on his knowingly false statements, should be considered valid.
Of course, the general public would be missing the point. Armstrong is not just using legal chicanery to shield himself from the natural consequences of his actions. He is also trying, desperately, to avoid being put into situations where his natural talent for dissembling might lead to future legal consequences. The fact that he might be able to accomplish this by simply settling and returning his prize money seems, for the moment, to have eluded both the cyclist and his attorneys.
Tillotson, for his part, seems to see the tip of a very big iceberg in all of this talk of Armstrong’s perjury, and his words to USA Today point to a deeper need on his part to see “justice” done. Perhaps that is not it, though. Perhaps this is just a grudge match between Lance Armstrong and the plucky young lawyer whose gut instinct about falsehood and graft proved to be too true, but to also carry too few consequences.
Either story fits the narrative, especially since Tillotson seems to have his heart set on another
confrontation with Lance Armstrong deposition, having written to the arbitration panel that, “SCA remains concerned about the extreme delay perpetuated by Mr. Armstrong in this matter and therefore requests the earliest possible dates for (depositions).”
No matter how you look at it, the case spells hard times for Lance Armstrong, and we should not find ourselves shocked if his smile is just a little slower, his jokes are told in a little lower voice, and he avoids saying anything at all whenever there is a camera (or even a teenager on a smartphone) in his immediate vicinity. This whole kerfuffle, this minor issue of committing fraud in the course of a court procedure, this one-time fib, is threatening to stamp out what rubble remains to represent his integrity and public character.
Of course he’s going to try to save it. Lance Armstrong has finally learned what every two-penny hustler has known since covered wagons brought snake oil to the west: You don’t go out and start telling the truth after you’re caught lying. That’s the absolute worst time to do it.
Image courtesy of Flickr.