My Life With Lance
Drugs and the Peloton
EVEN IF THE WHISTLEBLOWER SUIT FAILS, THE POSTAL SERVICE COULD DEMAND SOME MONEY BACK
Maybe, but this argument is sketchy. In its later contract renewals for sponsorship, USPS inserted drugs-and-morals clauses, which Postal’s team owners and riders agreed to. Those clauses included words like “inappropriate drug conduct prejudicial to the team or the Postal Service,” “commonly accepted standards of morality,” and so on. In light of that, there’s been speculation that USPS could try to take back some of the money it spent if Armstrong and other team members used performance enhancers. But it’s doubtful this will happen.
“I can tell you that, in contracts where I have been the lawyer, morals clauses do not have a retroactive effect” on an expired contract, says Andrew Morton, a partner at the Chicago-based firm of Handler and Thayer and chairman of its sports and entertainment group. “I’ve never seen it, even in company drafts” of contracts, he says.
Even if a clawback provision existed in Armstrong’s deals, says New York City sports-practice attorney Brian Socolow, “I highly doubt that Lance Armstrong or somebody else would just give the money back. The Postal Service would then have to bring a lawsuit and prevail in litigation. That would take a while and cost a fair amount of money. I think it’s highly unlikely that this type of case would be fielded. Morals clauses are kind of a dead issue after time has gone by.”
ARMSTRONG COULD LOSE HIS CURRENT ENDORSEMENT DEALS
Morals clauses in athlete contracts date at least to Babe Ruth’s day. (In 1922, the New York Yankees made him agree to stay off the booze and get some sleep.) Since then, the clauses have become standard for agreements between teams and players, as well as for athletes and the companies that endorse them. They can cover a wide range of activities but usually include terms like “disrepute” and “negative publicity.” You don’t have to be convicted of anything to trigger the clause.
Morton says he could make the argument that, due to disrepute and negative publicity, Armstrong’s sponsors could invoke the clauses now. But as high-profile cases involving athletes like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant have shown, they could also choose not to. Woods lost sponsors, but he retained some, too, including Nike. So did Kobe Bryant. So far, Armstrong backers like Nike and Oakley are saying they’ll stick with him. His persistent denials leave room for belief among supporters, but an admission from Armstrong could cause sponsors to cut ties.
ARMSTRONG COULD BE HAUNTED BY HIS OWN PAST LAWSUITS
In 2004, Armstrong filed two defamation suits after the publication, in France, of L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong. Written by journalists David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, the book compiled the best circumstantial evidence available at the time that Armstrong had doped. Now Tyler Hamilton and co-author Daniel Coyle have come along and bolstered much of what Walsh revealed.
L.A. Confidentiel was published by La Martinière, which also owns the sports newspaper L’Équipe and the Amaury Sport Organisation, which runs the Tour de France. The Sunday Times of London, Walsh’s employer, ran an article about the book five months earlier.
Armstrong sued in the U.K., naming Walsh and the Times, among others. In France, he sued La Martinière and the magazine L’Express, which had printed an excerpt.