The South Australian government has confirmed that Lance Armstrong was paid $1 million US dollars to appear at the 2009 Tour Down Under. Armstrong was also paid to ride the 2010 and 2011 editions of the race, but the figures have not been revealed yet despite a political campaign in Australia to reveal the information.
Following his retirement in 2005, Armstrong made his comeback to racing at the 2009 Tour Down Under, it was also his final professional race in 2011. He eventually confessed to doping in 2013 after being banned for life.
It has long been known that the race paid Armstrong a large appearance fee, but the exact amounts have never been officially reported by the South Australia government, which part-funds the Tour Down Under.
As well as his appearance fee, the race paid Armstrong for a first class return airfare, hotel accommodation, food and other incidental expenses.
The announcement of the details of the Tour Down Under’s contract with Amstrong come as a 10-year confidentiality clause expired. The treasurer of South Australia, Rob Lucas made the publication of the information surrounding Armstrong’s deal part of his campaign bid. He took up the position in March last year but had been prevented from releasing the information until now.
“Finally, we can reveal to South Australians what Labor MPs have been happily sitting on for a decade – that they forked-out a staggering US $1 million on behalf of taxpayers to an athlete who was subsequently exposed as the ringleader of the world’s most sophisticated doping program in sporting history,” Lucas said, according to reports in the Australian media.
“By anyone’s standards, it’s an astonishing amount of money to pay one man for a six-day race, not to mention the extra sweeteners on the side – first-class airfares for two, hotel accommodation, meals and other incidentals. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The details regarding Armstrong’s appearances at the 2010 and 2011 cannot be unveiled for another year and two years respectively. However, the 2015 Cycling Independent Reform Commission reported that Armstrong would have received a total of $3 million USD as part of his three-year deal.
According to the Australian media, the contract did not include any provision to terminate the contract in the case of Armstrong bringing the race into disrepute, and that there had been no attempt to recover any of the funds paid to Armstrong following his lifetime ban for taking banned performance-enhancing substances.
In 2011, while Armstrong was being investigated by the FDA (the USA’s Food and Drug Administration), Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur defended his decision to invite Armstrong and said that he had ‘no regrets’ about it. However, when Armstrong was given a lifetime ban by the UCI just over a year later Turtur called the news a ‘serious kick in the guts’.
Last season, the race celebrated its 20th anniversary and Turtur said that the race was still benefitting from the legacy of Armstrong’s appearances.