Lance’s date with destiny
February 13, 2017 § 44 Comments
Enough time has passed so that we have a generation of cyclists who know nothing about Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service. Enough time has passed that even the bitter among us have turned their ire elsewhere. Betsy seems occupied with something more meaningful than Lance’s ill treatment of her, and although Greg is still searching for Lance’s lost watts, he finally seems at peace having reclaimed his role of Only American to Win the Tour de France Without an Asterisk.
And of course it’s at the moment that people stop watching that the saga begins its climax.
With six years of procedural wrangling over, endless motions denied,and discovery dogfights put to rest, the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce juggernaut of Landis v. Tailwind Sports et al. is finally going to trial. And the stakes aren’t simply high, they are, for Armstrong, beyond catastrophic. With a maximum judgment in the neighborhood of $100 million, and no hope of escaping it in bankruptcy due to the underlying allegations of fraud, it’s all or nothing for Team Dopestrong.
Funny thing is, it always was.
What’s not funny is that time has given Lance’s case a good dose of perspective. But first, the legal monster that’s about to eat his lunch:
Armstrong’s defense was always simple. The USPS got way more than the $32 million it paid for. How? Simple, Armstrong said. Look at the media coverage for those five USPS Tour de France wins, assign a dollar value to it, and you’ll easily eclipse the $32 million that USPS paid Tailwind Sports.
When the lawsuit began, this looked like a pretty strong defense, and you see it all the time in litigation. Sure I was bad, but you know what? You weren’t hurt by my bad actions, so I don’t owe you squat. The numbers were squarely in Armstrong’s corner, too. His media coverage over the 5-year period that he was sponsored by USPS was astounding.
He lied to USPS, but so what? THEY MADE MILLIONS IN FREE ADVERTISING.
Unfortunately, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, because over the course of the litigation the government’s lawyers applied the same metrics to the bad publicity generated by Armstrong’s sporting fraud. Initially perhaps the bad coverage was outweighed by his five years of smashing the Tour (who can forget the Austin billboard that read, “Who’s your daddy, France?”).
But as the years dragged on, the government’s lawyers kept toting up all the bad press and terrible media coverage that USPS received, and continued to receive, as a result of Armstrong’s fraud. The number of “negative media impressions” in the first four years after Floyd Landis sued Armstrong under the False Claims Act sits at a staggering 1.5 billion. Even at fifty cents an impression, that number overwhelms any positive media generated in the glory days.
What’s worse, Armstrong can’t now be heard to criticize media coverage as a measure of damages because his whole case rests on it. Now a jury is going to get to decide, in essence, whether USPS got more good media coverage from Lance or more bad media coverage. The answer is so obvious that Armstrong’s lawyers have done everything in their power to prevent the case from going to trial … and failed.
You can read the court’s memorandum opinion on both sides’ motions for summary judgment here. The language is blunt, and doubtlessly terrifying, however legalistic it may sound at first pass:
The Court generally adopts Armstrong’s proposed “benefit-of-the-bargain” approach to calculating damages in FCA cases, like this one, where the market value of goods or services supplied under a government contract are difficult to determine. It also agrees that the record evidence—including internal Postal Service correspondence and contemporaneous thirdparty valuation studies—supports a finding that USPS received substantial benefits as a direct result of the sponsorship. Ultimately, however, the Court concludes that the monetary amount of the benefits USPS received is not sufficiently quantifiable to keep any reasonable juror from finding that the agency suffered a net loss on the sponsorship, especially if one considers the adverse effect on the Postal Service’s revenues and brand value that may have resulted from the negative publicity surrounding the subsequent investigations of Armstrong’s doping and his widely publicized confession. Determination of damages must therefore be left to a jury.
But all is not lost. The nebulous nature of valuing media coverage could mean that, after subtracting Armstrong’s unquestioned good publicity, a jury concludes that the damages aren’t all that substantial. What if Armstrong brought USPS $100 million in the good years, and cost them $101 million in the bad? The government gets a million times three, which is a lot less than $32 million times four. And of course a jury might conclude that the whole thing was a wash. After all, there are still plenty of people out there who think that whatever Lance did on the bike, he helped a lot of people by curing their cancer.
So on the battlefield, things are coming to a head, and a jury may find Lance and his sporting fraud and lengths to which he went to mistreat others and lie about his cheating repugnant enough to hang the entire bill around his neck. On the other hand Lance has a pretty formidable legal team, and he might ultimately prevail, or at least not get bankrupted. This would be a big bummer for ex-doper Floyd Landis who filed the suit, and who really isn’t an ex-doper anymore but is rather a doping entrepreneur peddling legal pot in Colorado. We’d call that ironic but it’s mostly sad, a doping cheat claiming he was harmed by other doping cheats and asking for compensation so that he can peddle dope instead of pedaling doped.
But back to perspective …
Here we are, almost eighteen years from Armstrong’s first Tour victory, spending truckloads of government money to prove that a bunch of bad media coverage outweighed a bunch of good media coverage. If the government wins, some dude will have to pay a few bucks, or maybe even go bankrupt. If the government wins big, a drug cheat who was stripped of his Tour win will be set for life by plundering the assets of another drug cheat who was also stripped of his Tour wins. That’s a morality play we can all get behind, right?
Yet during the time that this Battle of the Ex-Dopers has raged, our national landscape has radically changed. A scorched-earth, neo-Nazi thief sits in the Orange House, commemorating the Holocaust without mentioning the word “Jew,” as Imperial storm troopers rip poor Mexicans out of their homes and send them back “home” … to a country they’ve never known.
The Constitution itself hangs in the balance while the executive branch attacks the judiciary and while a prostrate and prostituted Congress rubber stamps a plethora of laws designed to turn us into the greatest kleptocracy the world has ever known, while the Great Orange Leader gives and sells secrets to the Russians and his minions openly promote America First in its purest sense.
It’s this backdrop that should make any right-thinking person look at the petty pothead ex-doper lawsuit filed against a petty ex-doping jerk and say, “Enough. Enough. Enough.”
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Amen, or, whatever we athiests say in strong agreement. Effin Lance. Nobody cares.
And the ones who do? Sad.
Enough is enough. Go after the real criminals, starting with the Orange Imposter. Why he’s not up for impeachment, given his record (and his business dealings, which no one has asked for an accounting of. Yes, I finished that sentence with a preposition. GET THE EFF OVER IT. NO ONE IS DEMANDING AN EXPLANATION. The government would rather spend our $$ going after a bike doper than the current administration, in which conflict of interest and sharing intel with Russia is rife. HELLO, AMERICA, WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES? They have nothing to do with Lance Armstrong. Pay attention to the real issues. And go ride your bikes. Your perspectives will be adjusted if you do.
So, fraud is okay now? Remember that Thom Wiesel sold cycling as a legitimate sport to USPS when it was nothing of the kind. What USPS got was fraud.
Yes, the fascist in office is terrible. But, life goes on anyway.
Furthermore, You can’t just throw away yesterday. Suddenly, you end up with fascists running the executive branch and the House because you failed to look back in time.
I have limited time and energy. And this is no longer worthy of either. Except for a couple of more posts … maybe … crack is so addictive.
Question for you Atty. Seth. Is there a fair chance that if Lance ends up on the losing side of this other corporate cycling sponsors could go after convicted or confessed dopers in a similar fashion that they perceive damaged their brand while in their employment?
I doubt it. It’s important to note that this case was brought by Landis, and USPS only intervened. Not many companies would want this kind of publicity.
I like the descriptions of Landis. I wonder if any number of those U.S. guys would have sold their soul in the same manner as Lance, had their situations been even slightly reversed.
Sure they would have. But “would have” is so different from “did.” Because I would have won so many races …
Bah, because it’s how we do it around Bah, here. It keeps our Bah minds of the stuff going of around the curtains Bah. I’m surprised Bah no one else noticed Bah Bah the made for Hollywood spectacular, that was the soupy bowl, this year. Not that I’m a conspiracy sheep or anything, Bah Bah
Sheep. Goat. You’re all quite pretty to me.
as always Seth you put things in such clear perspective! write on!
Truly a sad state of affairs.There are much larger fish to fry. Orange ones.
1. Seven years.
2. Everyone loves a good train wreck.
3. Trump doesn’t give a S–t about this case.
4. How yuuuge are Armstrong’s legal bills and how is he paying them, especially if he loses?
I looked at the docket on Pacer. He has seven attorneys on this case. I guess they bill at more than $2.99 a month, but am not sure.
If Landis wins, $2.99 a month might be all they get.
Hopefully they will use it wisely, investing in a local, well-written, professionally edited blog on cycling.
Legally selling medicinal and recreational cannabis is “sad”? Never thought I’d hear The Wanker walking in step with Sen. Jeff Beauregard Sessions.
In and of itself I could care less what people smoke, who they smoke it with, or how much they pay to smoke it. It should also be legal. But to go from a drug cheat suing another drug cheat while working as a legal drug peddler is ironic, to put it mildly. And no, I’m not rising to the bait.
Excellent blog today. Fantastic perspective from debster822 – can’t agree more!
At least it sounds like this trial is occurring on a level playing field.
But if you read the docket closely you will see that the government’s lawyers have benefited from marginal gains.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they no longer use the Postal Service because they supported Lance. Wait, make that no one ever.
Last quarter USPS lost $200 million or so. I blame Lance.
a doping cheat claiming he was harmed by other doping cheats and asking for compensation so that he can peddle dope instead of pedaling doped… that’s dope!
Best of all is that if he wins, Floyd will get paid for a scam against USPS that he participated in as a doped up doper who dopes. It really makes a lot of sense. Really, pass the bong and it will make sense. I promise.
Enough is most certainly enough. What I’d like to know is how USPS feels that sponsoring Lance in the first place was an appropriate move, let alone suing him with taxpayer funds. I’d also like to exhaustively make the point that Landis has done everything in his power to ride the coat tails of Lance/Lance cheating/this lawsuit to promotional fame. If it wasn’t a book, now it’s his pot business. Landis is a cheat, a narc and someone who’s more interested in slip-sliding his way to the top than he is just shutting the fuck up, putting his head down and pedaling into the wind.
It’s time to focus on other things (oh, you know, like the sexual assault problems, the CURRENT doping scandals, how crucifying Lance didn’t actually end doping, why the annual purchase of road bikes is slowing, how to create sustainable business going forward, pay and gender equality, industry diversity…) and for the cycling world to stop giving Landis a pass.
Lance sucks. Landis sucks just as bad. CAN WE MOVE ON YET?! (Amen, Seth. Amen.)
And while we’re moving on, let’s plant a few BMUFL signs while we’re at it.
Best sentence and sentiment in the whole post and response set!
There remains multiple opportunities for you to join the existential-pulp authors guild with all the goings on these days. We wait to hear from the next Nick Harkaway on the youngish cyclist who saves the world and lives to ride again.
$100M would be 275,000 BMUFL signs – now that would be giving back in a meaningful way…..
I’m sure that’s how the plaintiffs will spend it!
Another best ever column. You might be to old to get faster on the bike, but you’re not too old to get better at writing.
“a doping cheat claiming he was harmed by other doping cheats and asking for compensation so that he can peddle dope instead of pedaling doped.”
That said, I think Flandis was exactly one of the guys “doping just like everybody else” that LA tries to Trump his way into, but I think LA took it a few levels beyond what everybody else was doing.
Of course, if LA had shown Flandis the respect he deserved (by their standards), he’d still be living the high life with all titles retained.
Moral of the story: Don’t urinate on the people who hold your secrets. Unless it’s a presidential party, of course.
But didn’t Lance cause the GFC?
Yes, no question. What is it?
Found this entry riveting… sincerely… to the extent that I almost subscribed. Then you derailed into the political nonsense at the end that liberals seem unable to control within themselves.
What would have been refreshing, would have been to finally read something that stayed consistent to its title from start to finish.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a conservative, I’m simply tired of all the bickering on both sides.
I’ve made so many millions in almost subscriptions that you needn’t worry about being unable to control the fact that you never had any intention of subscribing anyway!
I was being sincere about your writing, it is fantastic.
The rest of it, well, thank you for the daily dose of sarcasm (which wasn’t nearly as riveting as your article).
I was being sincere too about all the people who almost subscribe, but like you would rather get “fantastic writing” for nothing than pay for it.