Armstrong and government spar over upcoming trial evidence
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong’s $100 million fraud trial is months away, yet his fight with the government and former teammate-turned-rival Floyd Landis is heating up.
Armstrong wants to bar potential testimony and evidence from some of his most dogged critics, including the blistering U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that led to his downfall and former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who now stands as the only American to have officially won the race.
Landis, who tipped investigators to Armstrong’s cheating back in 2010, wants to prevent Armstrong from telling jurors about his own doping history and motivation to file a lawsuit that could put more than $20 million in his pocket.
Trial is scheduled for November in federal court in Washington, and lawyers for both sides recently filed a series of motions asking U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper to exclude some key evidence.
Landis initially sued Armstrong in 2010, alleging Armstrong violated the cycling team’s U.S. Postal Service contract by using performance-enhancing drugs. The government joined in 2013 after Armstrong admitted using steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs and techniques to win the Tour de France seven times and become the world’s dominant bicycle racer from 1999-2005. The government wants to recover more than $30 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor Armstrong’s team and will seek triple damages.
Armstrong’s cheating was exposed and detailed in a 2012 U.S Anti-Doping Agency report that included sworn testimony from several of his former teammates. He was stripped of his Tour de France victories, banned from competition and has paid an estimated $20 million to settle various lawsuits.
Armstrong’s lawyers now call the USADA report “inadmissible hearsay” for the federal case and say it was written to satisfy the motives of an agency out to get him. They notably object to the report’s summation that Armstrong led the most “most sophisticated” doping program in sports history.
Even if the report is blocked, Armstrong has admitted and provided sworn testimony about his performance-enhancing drug use.
Armstrong also wants to block testimony from Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu. She was one of the first to provide sworn testimony about Armstrong’s drug use in a 2005 lawsuit, and has been a prominent critic of Armstrong’s past efforts to intimidate anyone who raised the specter of his doping. Armstrong’s lawyers call her a publicity seeker who blames Armstrong for her husband not having a better career.
Betsy Andreu said she hasn’t done TV interviews about Armstrong since 2013 and turned down a book deal.
“It’s been well established that Lance will stop at nothing to discredit my husband and me because of our uncompromising integrity,” she told The Associated Press. “Lance tried to shut me up by bullying me to the point of breaking me. He didn’t succeed then, he will not succeed now.”
LeMond’s presence at trial could be explosive as he has clashed fiercely with both Armstrong and Landis in the past. Armstrong’s lawyers want him out.
“While LeMond is well-versed in the prevalence of doping throughout the sport during the relevant time period (1997-2004) and still owns the record for the fastest time trial in Tour de France history, he has no personal knowledge regarding Armstrong, the USPS sponsorship agreement, or invoices submitted for sponsorship payments,” Armstrong’s lawyers wrote.
Kathy LeMond told the AP her husband has intimate knowledge of Postal Service contracting in the mid-1990s and the expectation by the government that teams were expected to be clean. LeMond was retired when the same group that organized Armstrong’s team first approached him about having a role in a Postal Service team, then froze him out, she said.
“They asked him to use his name to try to get a U.S.-based team,” Kathy LeMond said. “We have those documents ... We gave it all to the Justice Department.”
The government wants the judge to block some of Armstrong’s evidence as well, including two reports commissioned by the Postal Service during the team sponsorship. Those reports claim the sponsorship was worth more than $100 million in global exposure, leading Armstrong to claim he owes the government nothing. The government argues those reports should be disallowed as “hearsay” that lack expert testimony to support them.
The government also wants to prevent him from attacking Landis’ character and motivation. Landis’ 2006 Tour de France victory was stripped after he was caught using synthetic testosterone. He initially claimed innocence and asked the public to finance his defense. Landis was later prosecuted for fraud and paid back more than $475,000.
As the whistleblower against Armstrong, Landis stands to pocket up to 25 percent of any damages awarded.
“Armstrong should not be allowed to deflect the jury’s attention from his own misdeeds by putting Landis on trial and introducing evidence to cast him in a bad light,” the government wrote.
Dallas attorney Matthew Orwig, a former federal prosecutor, said whistleblowers are “rarely totally pure” and attacking their character is a common legal tactic.
Even though Landis filed the initial lawsuit, the government has said it doesn’t plan to call him as a witness. The government should consider presenting Landis’ background instead of letting Armstrong do it, Orwig said.
“Let them hear it from you instead of the other side,” Orwig said. “It seems to inevitably come out.”