UPDATES: 1/19/2013, 1:45 p.m. EST. The 33rd paragraph of this story have been updated with information gleaned from a Form 990 filing by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. 1/22/13, 3:30 p.m. EST. A statement from former Livestrong general counsel Mona Patel has been added to the 34th paragraph of this story.
Lance Armstrong's decadelong fight to clear his name of performance-enhancing drug use officially ended this week with a much-publicized interview with Oprah Winfrey.
"I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times," Armstrong told Winfrey in his prime-time televised mea culpa. "This story was so perfect for so long . . . [but] it wasn't true."
The web of lies built by Armstrongwho famously beat cancer and went on to win a record seven consecutive Tour de France titleshas kept lawyers from nearly a dozen Am Law 200 firms busy in litigation and arbitration proceedings that have generated enough affidavits, emails, and depositions to top the Pyrenees.
Now retired, Armstrong no longer scales the alpine peaks of Europe, but the disgraced cyclist's terse admission about using banned substances could put him back on a steep legal pathone that could land him in federal court or even bankruptcy. First and foremost on Armstrong's watch list is an investigation into charges of fraud, drug trafficking, and witness tampering, which was dropped by the U.S. Department of Justice in February 2012.
Armstrong could also still be on the hook for perjury charges. While the statute of limitations for perjury is five years in a criminal case and four years for civil actions, says Marty Steinberg, the former head of the commercial litigation practice at Hunton & Williams, those time frames can be extended if prosecutors bring RICO or conspiracy claims. (Steinberg represented former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire during congressional hearings into the use of steroids in baseball.)
Steinberg, who left Hunton last year to cochair the litigation practice at Miami's Bilzin, Sumberg, Baena, Price & Axelrod, believes that Armstrong's public apology for wrongdoing might be part of a deal with the Justice Department.
"[Armstrong] strikes me as a deliberate, calculating guy, so there must be some other motivation here," Steinberg adds. "His personality isn't one to apologize, because he didn't for a long time. His lawyers must have looked into thisforgiveness is not immunity."
After suffering defeats in performance-enhancing drug-related cases brought against former baseball stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the Justice Department likely has little appetite for a protracted court battle with Armstrongs high-priced legal team. (The Wall Street Journal reported this week that there was some internal disagreement among Armstrongs lawyers over their clients' plan to appear on Winfreys OWN network and own up to his past indiscretions.)
The cyclist's longtime public relations adviser and attorney Mark Fabiani, who earned the nickname "Master of Disaster" during his time in the Clinton administration, was in Austin for the taping of Armstrong's interview with Winfrey. Fabiani, who also serves as special counsel to the National Football League's San Diego Chargers, did not respond Friday to a request for comment from The Am Law Daily.
Also not returning phone calls were other members of Armstrong's star-studded legal defense team, one that includes Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton white-collar defense cochair Bryan Daly in Los Angeles, Keker & Van Nest partner Elliot Peters in San Francisco, litigation partners Robert Luskin and Mark Levinstein of Patton Boggs and Williams & Connolly, respectively, in Washington, D.C., and Timothy Herman of Austin's Howry Breen & Herman. (Herman, Armstrong's longtime personal attorney, told Bloomberg this week that he didn't feel betrayed by his client.)