After years of denying having used performance-enhancing drugs to win his seven Tours de France, Lance Armstrong finally came clean. Within the opening minute of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, the entire world heard the news they had waited to hear: he cheated to win. However, admitting to using a range of doping substances to win his Tour titles doesn't mean he will be paying back any of the bonus money he received from his history-making career, according to his lawyer Tim Herman.
According to a report by the BBC Sport late last year, Armstrong stood to lose $7.5 million after SCA Promotions - the company that insured US Postal and Discovery Channel's management company Tailwind Sports - announced they would seek a "return of funds". Coupled with the Texan's $3.9 million in Tour de France prize money, many thought a large pay check would have to be sent to SCA and Tour organisers ASO. Not so, says Herman.
"My only point is no athlete ever, to my understanding, has ever gone back and paid back his compensation," Herman told USA Today. "Not (New Orleans Saints coach) Sean Payton or anybody else. They were suspended, but nobody said you've got to give your paycheck back."
Armstrong had been stripped of his Grand Boucle titles in the aftermath of USADA's damning report into doping at the US Postal and Discovery Channel teams and was subsequently banned for life by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) and the sport's governing body, UCI. Even with his recent admissions and willingness to assist with the proposed truth and reconciliation commission Herman says it's unlikely Armstrong will be able to return to competitive sports.
"He doesn't expect it (eligibility), and his offer (to cooperate) is not contingent on that," he said.
In addition to his public admission, Armstrong would need to cooperate further with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) before his lifetime ban could be reduced. Under the current code his period of ineligibility would still mean eight years away from any sanctioned event. Repaying the reported $12 in bonuses he received during his Tour reign is not likely. Armstrong was in fact paid by Tailwind Sports, not SCA explained Herman.
"I read the rule like you do," Herman said. "An eight-year ban, that would be a lifetime ban (for Armstrong)."
"The bottom line is that Tailwind bought the (insurance) policy (with SCA)," said Herman. "Tailwind paid the premium. Tailwind made the claim, and the money was paid to Tailwind, not Lance Armstrong. I'm sure people will characterize that as a loophole, but it's a pretty significant factor."