Amid more doping allegations and probes, Lance Armstrong battles back
Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France champion, faces new allegations from a teammate that he failed a 2001 drug test, and a grand jury probe. He has long said, 'Where's the proof?'
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"Tyler Hamilton is a confessed liar in search of a book deal – and he managed to dupe 60 Minutes, the CBS Evening News, and new anchor Scott Pelley,” wrote Mark Fabiani, Armstrong’s spokesman, on the website Facts4Lance.com. “Most people, though, will see this for exactly what it is: More washed-up cyclists talking trash for cash.”Skip to next paragraph
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Armstrong’s camp is doing more than issuing press releases. The former cyclist has lawyered-up. He has hired Washington, D.C., Patton Boggs attorney Robert Luskin, who defended Bush political adviser Karl Rove in the investigation surrounding the leak of a CIA officer’s name. In an interview with AM Law Daily, Mr. Luskin predicted that efforts by the US Justice Department to obtain Armstrong’s French drug tests would come up dry.
"I think what they're going to find in France is French fries and no evidence against Lance," Luskin told AM Law Daily on May 21.
Armstrong has much at stake. He is one of the most admired athletes, in part because he beat cancer in 1996 and return to racing. A year later, he formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help other people diagnosed with cancer. It has raised millions of dollars and is active today, especially for its Livestrong.org presence, an online resource for cancer survivors.
“You don’t want to tear down an icon,” says Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Sport in Society center at Northeastern University in Boston. “He is someone who has stood for American values of overcoming great odds and obstacles and standing up for a cause that benefits many.”
However, if the allegations of illicit drug use are true, “We want to call him out on that issue, says Mr. Lebowitz. ”Cheating to get to the highest level is not commendable.”
A lot of money is at stake. Armstrong takes in about $20 million a year in endorsement money from companies such as Nike, Coca Cola, and Subaru, estimates Mr. Rishe. If Armstrong were to lose in a trial, Rishe says there is a “good chance” some of his sponsors would leave.
“It would depend on how deep the rabbit hole goes,” he says. “He might lose maybe 25 percent to 50 percent if he was ever outed.”
IN PICTURES: Scenes from the 2010 Tour de France