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Weatherill says: "many South Australians will feel deceived"
The Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, says that Lance Armstrong should repay the money that the state gave the cyclist to appear at the Tour Down Under.
Weatherill deposed former premier Mike Rann as state Labor leader in 2011, with the latter certainly leveraging his political campaigning with Armstrong. The Tour Down Under is partially funded by the South Australian Government through Tourism South Australia. Race staff have long acknowledged that Armstrong was paid a fee, believed to be up to $3 million per year to attend the Australian WorldTour event between 2009 and 2011, however the exact figure is deemed "commercially in confidence" by the South Australian Government.
When news of Armstrong's appearance fees initially hit the headlines in 2009, Rann trumpeted that the money was actually going to the cancer survivor's charity. Armstrong however then told the New York Times that he was treating the payment as income.
"It's not simply showing up to a bike race and getting paid to race the bike," he informed the publication. "I'm not being paid to race. Is there a fee for other things? Yes, but that's not any different than what I've done the last three or four years, actually longer than that."
Weatherill, speaking following reports that Armstrong had confessed to doping while recording an interview with Oprah Winfrey which will got to air later this week, said that "many South Australians will feel deceived" by the 41-year-old.
There are no laws in place for the government to recoup Armstrong’s payments.
"Certainly, I'd be more than happy for Mr Armstrong to make any repayment of monies to us," said Weatherill.
"He's a cheat and he's deceived people. I don't think people like that should gain any more attention."