News Column

Long Road to Redemption for Armstrong

Jan 14, 2013

By Brent Schrotenboer

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong wants to reconcile with longtime nemesis Floyd Landis as part of his overall strategy to make a confession about doping, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

So far, the reconciliation attempt has not been successful. Landis, Armstrong's former cycling teammate, has been hostile to Armstrong because of his previous attacks against him. Landis was among the first to accuse Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs, prompting Armstrong and his attorneys to fire back at him and portray him as a fraud.

The attempt at reconciliation is driven in part by a federal whistleblower suit Landis filed against Armstrong -- a suit the federal govern-ment has considered joining. At issue is whether Armstrong and others defrauded the U.S. Postal Service of about $30 million when it sponsored his team.

But if Landis rebuffs Armstrong and continues the suit, Armstrong probably will defend himself by arguing that the USPS did not suffer damages from his doping and instead profited from his performance. Landis didn't return a message seeking comment. Armstrong's attorneys declined to comment.

The Landis issue is one of several legal and personal considerations Armstrong weighed in his decision to make an admission about performance-enhancing drugs after years of denials, the people said. He plans to make the admission in an interview taping today with Oprah Winfrey at his home in Austin. The show will air Thursday.

The strategy is long term, the people said. Armstrong does not expect to regain sponsors anytime soon by confessing now. He also doesn't expect to resume his athletic career anytime soon after being banned for life. He doesn't even expect to sign a book deal right away, though there will be offers for that.

The hope is a confession will help history judge him more favorably in light of his work fighting cancer and domination of cycling in an era when doping was rampant. Perhaps most important, he hopes it will relieve distractions for Livestrong, the charity he founded to support cancer patients.

By contrast, if he decided not to confess, he was looking at a life of mostly avoiding the subject and a pariah-like status in some quarters. Before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency evidence came out, he not only denied doping for years, he attacked those who accused him of doping, including Landis.

That strategy changed after the USADA released a massive file of doping evidence against him in October, prompting all of Armstrong's sponsors to drop him. After that, Armstrong remained mostly silent on the subject. He had two realistic choices: remain quiet about it or come clean. The latter option offered possible public redemption, even if it might take years.

"He appears to be gambling that the public will ultimately forgive him and he will be able to rehabilitate his image and earning potential," said Brian Socolow, a New York-based business attorney not involved in the Armstrong case.

Though he wasn't hurting for money, Armstrong's income was reduced by his lifetime ban and his sponsors' decision to drop him. Re-entering the public arena with a confession could lead to future income opportunities such as book deals, speaking engagements, sponsorships and even competition -- all opportunities that would not be as likely or as successful without an admission.

A confession also could help him repair relationships with the cancer community. Armstrong was forced to step down from the Livestrong board as the controversy swirled.

"Until we know what Lance has to say, we can't talk about it in theory," Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Sunday.

Armstrong still faces potential legal trouble after his confession. By admitting to doping, he will give ammunition to two companies that have sued him for lying about it -- The Sunday Times of London and SCA Promotions, a business in Dallas that paid his bonuses for winning the Tour de France. The Sunday Times took out an ad in Sunday's Chicago Tribune telling Winfrey what to ask Armstrong in their interview. Armstrong probably would hope to settle those cases if not fight them.

Criminal prosecution also is possible, though the Armstrong camp thinks that is unlikely, the people said. The federal government dropped a criminal fraud case against him last year without explanation. Armstrong also testified under oath in the SCA case in 2005 that he never doped, possibly opening himself up to perjury charges, although it is beyond the statute of limitations.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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