Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admits that he will risk financial ruin when his $100 million (88.4 million euros) whistleblower lawsuit goes before a jury in the United States later this year.
The latest of the American’s many legal problems has seen his former US Postal Service team-mate Floyd Landis, the man whose evidence helped to expose Armstrong’s doping offences, bring a case to court for damages.
Due to the team being sponsored by the American post office, the US federal government has joined Landis in claiming $100 million, one third of which would be awarded to Landis himself for originally bringing the suit.
Armstrong, who revealed he has sought counselling following his public doping confession, is confident of victory in the legal battle, but the fallen seven-time Tour de France winner concedes that he is worried.
“I mean, the whistleblower case is a $100 million case. If I lost, we would not be sitting at this table anymore,” Armstrong told a group of journalists, including AFP, at his home in Aspen, Colorado.
“We wouldn’t be sitting in this home anymore. We wouldn’t be sitting in any home. I don’t have $100 million.
“We like our case is all I will say. I’m not going to jinx myself. But I don’t know. How do you guys see it? Say the jury says: ‘Pay up $100 million.’ Floyd Landis gets $33 million.
“Is everybody at this jury happy with that? I would think what everybody thinks. There’s no logic to that.”
Few athletes — few people — have ever suffered such a calamitous fall from grace as Armstrong, who inspired millions by beating cancer and going on to win one of the world’s hardest sporting events multiple times before being exposed for drug abuse.
– ‘Looking like a fool’ –
While he insists that he is not in the “dark place” that anti-doping former cyclist Christophe Bassons recently claimed he is, Armstrong does admit to seeking professional help.
“Counselling is so funny because people are like, ‘Are you weak or something?’ But we hire coaches in every other facet of life, whether it’s cycling or another sport or business,” said Armstrong.
“I have been going to counselling off and on for a while. And more and more lately, actually. We can all be better people. And God knows I could.”
Although the 43-year-old admits that he was “a complete dick for a long time”, he says he cannot apologise for everything.
“I’m not going to be sorry for certain things,” he said. “I’m going to be sorry for that person who was a believer, who was a fan, who supported me, who defended me, and ended up looking like a fool.
“I need to really be contrite and sorry about that. And I am. I’m more worried about Mary-Jane in Ohio, and Doug in Pennsylvania, or Liam in Birmingham or wherever.
“Listen, if I could walk the world and face-to-face apologise, I would.”
Armstrong, who claimed he lost $75 million in sponsorship and endorsement income on the day he confessed to his serial doping three years ago, is also still in touch with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
USADA CEO Travis Tygart has offered a reduction in Armstrong’s lifetime ban from competitive sport in return for further co-operation.
Armstrong believes such a lifting of the suspension is “highly unlikely”, but in any case, the Texan claims he has “nothing new” to offer Tygart.
– Froome in crosshairs –
Armstrong will return to charity work next month when he completes two or three stages of the 2015 Tour de France route for the Cure Leukaemia organisation.
He continues to harbour regrets over the impact of his doping revelations on Livestrong, the charitable foundation he formed in 1997, which subsequently severed its ties with him.
“I see the negative side of it, real people really hurt by it,” he said. “I don’t have to make a case for me, but you can at least see what it’s done to the sport.
“I do know it had a real negative effect on the fact that Chris Froome or whoever, they’re still answering questions about some old guy. Sponsors left, races folded, the media totally turned.
“The industry, just look at the trend. You guys (in the British media) probably live in a bubble because Britain has ridden this wave behind (Bradley) Wiggins, Froome and Sky, but there’s been a lot of negative fall-out.
“Most importantly, I can tell you exactly what happened to the Foundation, what a drop in fundraising (there was) which directly relates to helping real people.
“You are talking about an organisation that was raising $50 million a year serving 500,000 people. So say they do $25 million, that’s still a lot of money, but they serve 250,000 people.
“Still a lot, but it’s 250,000 people without services. That’s a lot of people.” – Agence France-Presse