Lance Armstrong has been asked by an insurance company to repay several million dollars in bonus money, according to ESPN. Since the payment was based on the fact that the professional cyclist was a Tour de France winner, the company believes that they should be paid back now that Armstrong’s title have been stripped away.
“The bonus that was owed was based on the premise that Lance Armstrong was the winner of the Tour de France,” SCA Promotions lawyer Jeffrey Tillotson explained. “He is no longer the official winner, so it would be improper for him to keep those funds.”
Reports indicate that Tailwind Sports, which owned the US Postal Service team, secured a number of policies to cover the bonuses promised to Armstrong should he win the Tour de France. SCA Promotions was one of the companies contracted to pay out the bonus money should the cyclist walk away with a title. While the company was more than happy to pay out earnings in 2001 and 2003, they were hesitant to cough up anything else due to the doping allegations made against the athlete.
Against SCA Promotions’ better judgment, Lance Armstrong received $7.5 million from the policy in 2006, a figure which included his bonus as well as interest. However, now that the cyclist is no longer a Tour de France winner, the insurance company is requesting the return of the money. Of course, convincing a court that Armstrong should return the cash is another thing altogether.
“If you make a bet on the Super Bowl and you lose because the referees didn’t see that the guy who caught the ball had his foot out of bounds, you can’t argue with the bookie,” Tillotson explained. “But if the referees decision were one day overruled, you’d have a legal claim to get your money.”
Lance Armstrong has had a tough go of it this year. In addition having seven of his Tour de France titles stripped away as a result of an in-depth doping allegation, several sponsors jumped ship after the findings went public. Unfortunately, the results of the investigation also forced Armstrong to step down from his position at Livestrong, a charity devoted to battling cancer.
As many have pointed out, it could prove difficult for Livestrong and other Armstrong-centric endeavors to separate themselves from the controversy surrounding the the doping scandal. Although Livestrong will continue to fight cancer without Armstrong as its figurehead, some people may ultimately hold Armstrong’s involvement against the organization.
“If the charity is completely wrapped around a single person, it becomes much more difficult for the charity to reinvent itself,” marketing professor Vikas Mittal explained to the Houston Chronicle. “The process of disentangling yourself from that is slow and painful.”
The Winnipeg Free Press reports that some retailers will continue to carry Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong clothing line. The brand is distributed by Nike, the cyclist’s former sponsor. Barrett Peitsch, director of client services for Fusion Group, explained that, due to Armstrong’s well-publicized fall from grace, businesses and organizations associated with the cyclist may suffer quite a bit in the long run.
“The distinguishing factor between Armstrong and many others whose fame had risen into the stratosphere is he lied to everybody — the cycling community, cancer survivors, the media and fans all around the globe,” Peitsch said. “Everybody feels duped.”
Betrayal is an unforgivable sin in the world of fandom. Had Armstrong come forward and admitted that he had, in fact, been a part of an elaborate and deceptive doping scheme, forgiveness from his fans and followers may have been in the cards down the line. It’s hard to bounce back when you’ve been labeled a cheater, particularly when you’re an accomplished athlete who helped bring a sport into the mainstream.
If Lance Armstrong have to repay $7.5 million in bonus money to SCA Promotions, then it’s possible that are other companies could follow suit. The financial fallout from the doping scandal could be catastrophic for the professional cyclist. Even if no one convinces a judge to make Armstrong repay some of the money he earned over the past few years, the cost of battling these lawsuits in court could effectively bankrupt the father of five. The fallen sports hero’s troubles might be just beginning.