Armstrong loses arbitration appeal to block case
- Article by: JIM VERTUNO
- Associated Press
- April 24, 2014 - 6:05 PM
AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas appeals court has rejected Lance Armstrong's attempts to block an arbitration panel from reviewing $12 million in bonuses paid to him by a company that wants its money back, a setback for the cyclist who is fighting multiple legal battles that could strip him of his personal fortune.
The Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals had temporarily halted the case at Armstrong's request in March, but ruled Thursday it doesn't have jurisdiction at this stage of an arbitration matter.
A spokesman for SCA Promotions said the ruling will allow the arbitration to proceed. The ruling was a defeat for Armstrong but not a final one. State law will allow him to appeal any final judgment if the panel rules against him.
SCA Promotions wants to reopen a 2006 settlement it paid to Armstrong and sued the cyclist after his 2013 admission to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career to win the Tour de France.
The arbitration panel that first approved the settlement agreed to reconsider the case, prompting Armstrong to ask the state courts to intervene. Armstrong attorney Tim Herman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday's ruling.
SCA and Armstrong have been battling since 2005, when the company first tried to withhold the bonus money and sought to prove he used performance-enhancing drugs. Despite producing some of the most serious doping allegations at the time, SCA ultimately agreed to pay Armstrong.
Armstrong's attorneys insist state law doesn't allow SCA to reopen the original settlement, which included a clause that said "no party may challenge, appeal or attempt to set aside" the payment and that it was "fully and forever binding."
But given Armstrong's doping admission and SCA's claims that it reached the settlement only because of fraudulent efforts by Armstrong, the arbitration panel agreed to consider the company's case for repayment.
The appeals court said it can't step in until there is a final judgment from the arbitration panel.
"As a general matter, an arbitration must be complete before appellate review is appropriate," the court wrote in its opinion.
Armstrong has faced several lawsuits since admitting last year that he used steroids and other performance-enhancers to win the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005.
He has settled cases with the London-based Sunday Times and Nebraska-based Acceptance Insurance. Armstrong settled with Acceptance, which paid him $3 million in bonuses similar to SCA, hours before he was scheduled to be questioned under oath.
He also is facing a federal whistleblower lawsuit, in the government wants to recover more than $30 million the U.S. Postal Service paid to Armstrong's teams. Potential penalties in that case could be as high as $100 million.
The SCA case is notable because until a 1,000-page report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012, the company's initial investigation dug further than anyone else into Armstrong's doping, including testimony from Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu.
Betsy Andreu testified that Armstrong admitted to doctors treating him for cancer in 1996 that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. She later became a key witness against Armstrong in the USADA report and one of his fiercest public critics.
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