sport

Lawyer: Time may help Armstrong

A lawyer who questioned Lance Armstrong under oath believes the disgraced cyclist will avoid criminal prosecution for lying.

Armstrong admitted to doping during his record run of seven Tour de France wins, from 1999 to 2005, in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, contradicting testimony he gave Dallas-based lawyer Jeff Tillotson in November 2005.

The long-awaited public admission opens up the 41-year-old Texan to a host of legal action.

The passage of time means criminal charges of perjury are now unlikely, but Tillotson's clients SCA Promotions is seeking to recoup 12 million US dollars in prize money it paid Armstrong after losing its case more than seven years ago.

Tillotson told Press Association Sport: "The statute of limitations for Mr Armstrong to be prosecuted criminally for perjury in Texas for what he said in our case has probably run. It's probably too old a crime.

"Our goal in this would be to say: please don't let Mr Armstrong keep that benefit of the lie.

"He told us a series of lies in our case that allowed him to get 12 million US dollars from us. No-one should benefit from lying under oath.

"Within the first minute of his interview with Oprah Winfrey he said yes to a series of questions regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs that he had answered no to me, under oath, in giving sworn testimony.

"For us it was a very quick acknowledgement by Mr Armstrong that not only had he been lying to the public for years, but that he had lied directly and purposely to us under oath."

Since last Thursday and Friday night's interview, Tillotson has been in contact with Armstrong's lawyer, Austin-based Tim Herman, to inform him that SCA Promotions is prepared to open civil proceedings, if necessary.

SCA Promotions is seeking a minimum of 12m US dollars - the return of Tour de France prize money of 1.5m US dollars in 2002, 3m US dollars in 2003 and 5m US dollars in 2004, plus 2.5m in costs paid in 2004 - plus interest and costs.

Lengthy proceedings could follow unless Armstrong agrees to a settlement.

Tillotson added: "If he wants to make amends then this will resolve itself peacefully. If it doesn't then it's going to come to litigation.

"If it comes to litigation, you're looking at a resolution over the next year."

Tillotson described Armstrong's interview with Winfrey as both "astonishing" and "surreal" as she used clips from his own cross-examination to question the cyclist.

SCA Promotions and Tillotson anticipated Armstrong, who competed in triathlons, marathons and mountain bike races before he was banned from all sport for life last year and stripped of all results from August 1, 1998, would be more cautious after years of vehement denials.

Armstrong insisted his 2005 Tour win was the last occasion he doped, despite evidence to the contrary in the United States Anti-Doping Agency report which led to his downfall.

Its reasoned decision suggested the prospect of Armstrong competing naturally during his third-placed finish in 2009 and the 2010 Tour was "less than one in a million".

USADA stood by its claims and a confession relating to his comeback years would not have impacted on the SCA Promotions case, Tillotson believes.

He added: "Our case was involving whether he had cheated for the '02, '03 and '04 Tour de France races.

"I personally happen to believe that he is not being truthful about '09 and 2010. The USADA report is very compelling that he doped for those races.

"He's trying to make it seem that he last doped in 2005, he's admitted it. As a result he should only get an eight-year suspension and therefore he should be allowed to compete almost immediately.

"We have to evaluate whether this is a man truly sorry for what he did or sorry that he got caught.

"Mr Armstrong made his choices, he made them deliberately, he made them forcefully and now has to pay that price."

Another legal case which Armstrong faces is for damages won from The Sunday Times. David Walsh, the newspaper's chief sports writer, led the investigative journalism into Armstrong's misdemeanours.

A Sunday Times spokesman said: "We watched Lance Armstrong's interview with interest and noted his numerous admissions regarding taking performance-enhancing drugs.

"The Sunday Times believes that our case for recovering the 1m he obtained from us by fraud is now even stronger. We will be pursuing that case vigorously."

Meanwhile, reports from Hollywood suggest Paramount Pictures will make a movie of Armstrong's story, based on a book proposal made by New York Times reporter Juliet Macur.

A report on Deadline.com revealed the prospect of the film being made, sparking Twitter speculation over who should play the lead role. Comedian Will Ferrell was among the names mentioned.