Thursday, January 17, 2013
Before Doprah confession, Dallas attorney says he could sue Lance Armstrong for $12 million
"There isn’t any joy in this," said Dallas attorney Jeffrey Tillotson.
Dallas attorney Jeffrey Tillotson is the only person to have interviewed Lance Armstrong under oath, during that now-infamous deposition taken on November 30, 2005. Tillotson was representing SCA Promotions, the LBJ Freeway-based sports-insurance company forced to pay Armstrong $12.5 million in bonuses for winning the Tour de France in 2002, ’03 and ’04. As USA Today so neatly summed it up in October, SCA had insured the bonuses on behalf of Tailwind Sports, at the time the owner of the U.S. Postal Service team for which Armstrong raced.
“In return for payments of around $200,000 from Tailwind, SCA made the bet that Armstrong would not win those Tours,” wrote Brent Schrotenboer. “If he did, SCA would be on the hook for those bonuses.”
But SCA didn’t want to make those payments — because even then, based upon the testimony of some of the cyclist’s associates, the Dallas company believed Armstrong was doping. And so Tillotson asked the cyclist, repeatedly, if he had in fact taken performance-enhancing drugs. And each time, Armstrong answered with some variation of an emphatic, irritated “No.” See for yourself. Or read the transcript below. Eventually, a deal was cut, and the money was paid — money SCA has wanted back ever since October, when the International Cycling Union stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and he received a lifetime ban for doping.
Tillotson has been ready to sue Armstrong for months, but held off while the drama played itself out. It culminates, of course, with Thursday night's broadcast of Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey, the first part of which will air on the OWN network and stream live here beginning at 8 p.m. Dallas time.
“This is a day we thought would never come,” says Tillotson. “We didn’t think Lance Armstrong would ever confess, and we are anxious and extremely interested to see what Mr. Armstrong says. I will say this in all candor: We’re not gleeful. This doesn’t make us happy. This was a very painful process for the client. We were criticized every step of the way by Mr. Armstrong and some members of his team. Every witness who told us something that turned out to be true was criticized. Seeing it unravel before our very eyes is gratifying in the sense we thought we were right. But there isn’t any joy in this.”
Armstrong and his legal team have long said they don’t need to repay SCA’s bonus money, pointing to the agreement’s language (“No party can challenge, appeal or attempt to set aside the arbitration award”) as proof that what’s done is done. Tillotson and SCA, of course, disagree, and a lawsuit written months ago could be filed as early as tomorrow, says Tillotson.
“The client will make the decision about how best to proceed,” he says. “Mr. Armstrong’s decision to confess, I guess, may mean to us he’s more willing to understand the consequences of his actions, and perhaps that will play into it. But we’ll wait to see what he says and how he says it. I wouldn’t rule out a lawsuit as soon as Friday. The client’s resolve is to get back this money, this $12 million. Apologies are nice, but when Mr. Armstrong sends us his apologies he needs to include a check giving us back the $12 million.