DALLAS (CN) - Lance Armstrong cannot block arbitration over his $12 million in Tour de France bonuses, a Texas appeals court ruled, paving the way for his long-awaited deposition under oath.
SCA Promotions sued Armstrong and his management company, Tailwind Sports Corp., in Dallas County Court last year after the disgraced cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour wins and banned from cycling for life by the Union Cycliste International.
The UCI's punishment came months after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a "reasoned decision" that accused Armstrong of running the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.
Armstrong ultimately admitted to having cheated regularly during his career in a January 2013 televised interview with Oprah Winfrey. Among prior vehement denials of such cheating, however, was testimony Armstrong gave for a 2004 lawsuit he and Tailwind filed against SCA.
That case involved SCA's refusal to pay $5 million in bonuses for Armstrong's Tour win in 2003 based on its suspicions that he doped. SCA owed the bonus under a contract that required indemnification of Tailwind for race bonuses it would owe Armstrong under his employment contract with the race team. The suit later went to arbitration and ended with a $12 million settlement for Armstrong in 2006.
Now claiming that Armstrong's earlier denials under oath amount to perjury and fraud, SCA wants to go back to the same arbitration panel and punish Armstrong.
District Judge Tonya Parker refused to stay the arbitration proceedings this past February, and a three-judge panel with the 5th District Court of Appeals affirmed on April 24.
The court lacks jurisdiction over Armstrong's appeal, according to the ruling.
"As a general matter, an arbitration must be complete before appellate review is appropriate," Justice Kerry Fitzgerald wrote for the panel. "The circumstances of this case do not warrant a departure from the general rule."
Armstrong had argued that USADA's reasoned decision provides no basis for reopening the arbitration.
"Contrary to SCA's assertions, the reasoned decision says nothing about forfeiting either prize money or insurance proceeds, nor does it specify the entity any such 'forfeiture' would benefit," his motion to stay arbitration said. "Thus, a forfeiture request based on a USADA publication adds nothing to the arbitrability debate not already addressed as sanctions."
Amstrong also argued that the settlement agreement's arbitration clause does not cover SCA's claim for forfeiture of prize money.
"The fact that SCA regrets settling the case and wants its money back - and wants to punish Armstrong for his perceived transgressions - does not make this dispute arbitrable," the motion said.
Neither SCA nor Armstrong's attorney, Tim Herman with Howry Breen in Austin, returned requests for comment.
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