Wide Berth for Discovery in Lance Armstrong Suit
AUSTIN (CN) - Facing calls to return millions in race win bonuses, Lance Armstrong must come clean about doping in his cycling career, a Texas judge ruled.
Acceptance Insurance Company sued Armstrong and his management company, Tailwind Sports, in Travis County Court earlier this year over bonuses it paid for his victories in the Tour de France from 1999 to 2001.
The company sued after Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour victories and banned from the sport for life based on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's "reasoned decision" that Armstrong had run the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.
Armstrong later confirmed the accusations in a January interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Travis County Judge Tim Sulak recently overruled Armstrong's objections to the discovery requests in the insurance case, but he preserved Armstrong's claims of attorney-client and spousal privilege.
Sulak gave Armstrong until Sept. 30 to respond to the requests. The suit is set for trial in April 2014.
Acceptance Insurance's attorney, Mark Kincaid with George Brothers in Austin, told Sulak at a previous hearing that Armstrong had admitted he doped and used performance-enhancing drugs from 1999 to 2001, the years covered by Acceptance's policy.
The insurer nevertheless wants information about the conspiracy for Armstrong's entire career, not just the years the policy was in place.
Armstrong refused to answer questions regarding 1995 to 2010. The questions ask in which races he used performance-enhancing drugs, if his teammates used them, and who provided and paid for them, according to Acceptance's motion to compel.
A transcript of the Aug. 14 hearing reveals that Kincaid asked, "then with respect to all of the other inquiries, what about the other years?"
"Did you dope before that? Did you dope after that? Who helped you dope? Who gave you the dope? Who paid for the dope? Who knew you were doping? They object and take the position that, well, we've admitted the three years that matter, so none of the rest of this matters. Well, it matters tremendously. Every year before 1999 goes to the issue of fraud and inducing this contract."
Defense attorney Patton Lochridge, of McGinnis Lochridge in Austin, disagreed. In a responding letter brief filed on Aug. 23, he deemed Acceptance's requests for information as "overbroad fishing expeditions not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery" of evidence.
"Discovery in this case should be limited to matters that are relevant to the issues before the court, not matters of interest to the media, tabloids, or public at large," Lochridge wrote. "Armstrong is willing to answer reasonable discovery for the time period of 1995 to 2001, but objects to Plaintiff's inquisition into his entire cycling career."
The majority of Acceptance's discovery requests seek to make "a spectacle of Armstrong's doping, rather than legitimately pursuing the claims in its lawsuit," according to Armstrong's response to the motion.
Armstrong had previously reached a settlement when SCA Promotions sued him over $12 million in bonuses it paid him for Tour victories.
Armstrong and Tailwind had earlier sued SCA in 2004 after it refused to pay his $5 million bonus for winning the Tour in 2003. SCA refused to pay because it suspected him of doping. Armstrong took SCA to arbitration in 2005 and won, as he had been named the official winner of the Tour. The parties settled in 2006 and Armstrong was paid.
SCA had claimed Armstrong made two statements during arbitration that contradict what is known now.
It said he told a "critical" lie under oath by avowing that he had "never, ever" used performance enhancing drugs in his entire career.
SCA also said the defendants assured it and the arbitrators that if Armstrong had cheated, and was subsequently stripped of his Tour titles, he would be obligated to refund the prize money paid by SCA.
"This lawsuit is being brought because the first statement was a deliberate lie perpetuated by Mr. Armstrong and his cohorts in order to win the Tour de France races and, now that he has been exposed and stripped of those titles, it is time to make him live up to what he said in the second statement," SCA's complaint stated.
Kincaid cited the conflicting arbitration testimony at the Aug. 14 hearing in arguing for compelling Armstrong to give more answers.
"There was an alleged conversation in the hospital in '96 where he admitted - allegedly admitted to the doctors using performance-enhancing drugs in the presence of other people," he said. "That's highly relevant because that's one of the things that he denied under oath in the SCA arbitration. So knowing what he did before matters."
Kincaid also pointed to allegations that Armstrong bought off the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling's governing body, to conceal a failed drug test in Switzerland.
"If the enforcing entity was complicit in this, that really goes to whether my client, a humble, honest insurance company, could have done anything to discover it," Kincaid said. "The fact that SCA couldn't and wound up paying a premium for daring to accuse him of doping is highly relevant."