Armstrong told Winfrey that when the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles dropped its criminal investigation of him last year, he genuinely believed he was "out of the woods." But the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was conducting a parallel probe, and in June it leveled its own charges against the tough-talking Texan, which, after a brief battle in federal court in Austin, he ultimately chose not to contest in August.
The Am Law Daily reported in October on the efforts by USADA and its outside lawyers from Bryan Cave to pierce the omertà surrounding Armstrong and former teammates of his U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team, which backed all of Armstrong's Tour de France wins, save for 2005, when the team was sponsored by the Discovery Channel. That month Armstrong's reputation took another blow following the release of a 202-page reasoned decision by USADA, based in part on the testimony of 26 individuals.
That testimony also included the affidavits of Armstrong's 11 former USPS teammates, which describe in detail how the taxpayer-supported USPS team developed a secret doping system that was designed to beat detection. The affidavits from close friends and colleagues were also what inevitably sent the high-profile cyclist's image off-road.
"It's amazing how everyone can now see what a different guy [Armstrong] is," says Chris Manderson, a former Paul Hastings associate who cofounded Newport Beach, Californiabased Manderson, Schafer & McKinlay in 2009. "We've known all along that he was a doper, a liar, and a thug," adds Manderson, who represents Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton, "but a few years ago no one knew."
Armstrong's attorneys attacked Hamilton two years ago after the former national road race champion sought to speed Armstrong's demise by accusing his ex-teammate of doping during a tell-all interview with CBS's 60 Minutes. Armstrong also reportedly confronted Hamilton at a restaurant in Colorado, an altercation that drew the attention of the FBI. (Manderson spoke with The Am Law Daily in 2011 about Hamilton's decision to come clean about his own doping issues, which he subsequently helped his client address in a well-received book last year called The Secret Race.)
Other former USPS teammates of Hamilton and Armstrong that gave affidavits to USADA have hired their own counsel. Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel litigation cochair Barry Berke advised Canadian cyclist Michael Barry, while a trio of other former ridersTom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde, and David Zabriskieturned to Herrick, Feinstein counsel David Rosenfield.
A client of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz referred litigation partner David Anders to George Hincapie, the only member of the USPS team to ride with Armstrong during all seven of his Tour de France victories. Armstrong admitted to Winfrey that it was the testimony of Hincapie that sealed his fate.
During the first half of her interview with Armstrongthe second part airs on Friday nightWinfrey played excerpts of a deposition Armstrong gave back in 2005 in litigation with Dallas-based SCA Promotions. Armstrong and his lawyers from Austin's Howry Breen had sued the company a year earlier over its refusal to pay him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France title on the grounds that he was able to do so only because of illicit drug use.
The case was moved from state court in Texas to arbitration, where a three-member panel eventually handled down a decision adverse to SCA, one of many defendants targeted over the years by Armstrong and his attorneys for daring to suggest he cheated on his way to the top of pro cycling.
Armstrong attributes a "win at all costs" mentality for his decision to lie about doping to one of SCA's lawyersJeffrey Tillotson of Dallas's Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Coxin the video deposition played on Winfrey's program. It's a decision that could come back to haunt Armstrong, as Tillotson and SCA are expected to file a complaint next week seeking to reopen the case and recoup $9.5 million in bonuses paid to Armstrong and $2.5 million in attorney fees paid to Howry Breen.