Fallen cycling legend Lance Armstrong took a major legal risk in confessing to drug use in a television interview and has exposed himself to significant litigation, lawyers have warned.
The seven-time Tour de France champion already faced several potential lawsuits from former teammates and sponsors who claim they were hurt by his doping and by his ferocious but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to cover it up.
Yet by appearing with talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and bluntly admitting to taking a cocktail of banned substances over a decade-and-a-half while bullying those around him, he may have put more than his reputation at risk.
“I think it’s going to be a big judgment against him. I think he’s going to have a gigantic money judgment,” said Peter Keane, a law professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Armstrong’s admission of guilt could force him to pay substantial out-of-court settlements to many of his detractors, and may encourage US authorities to add their weight to one of the most serious cases against him.
Meanwhile, his aggressive demeanour and perceived lack of contrition in the interview could turn judges and jurors against him if cases come to court, and will increase the determination of those seeking to sue him.
“He did a terrible job,” said Jordan Kobritz, a former lawyer and head of sports at SUNY Cortland University, reflecting the view of many sports fans and professionals reacting on social networks and in television studios.
“I didn’t think he was sincere, contrite, forthright or remorseful,” he told AFP after the first part of the interview was broadcast late Thursday.
“As a former attorney, I think his attorneys probably weren’t in favour of what he did, because of the many potential legal consequences. I think they were right.”
Kobritz said Armstrong missed an opportunity to make a genuine apology to two women, former team masseuse Emma O’Reilly and a teammate’s wife Betsy Andreu, whom he had insulted when they attempted to reveal his doping.