Armstrong facing double threat

Lance Armstrong's record-breaking achievements are being questioned to the tune of $5million by an A

Lance Armstrong's record-breaking achievements are being questioned to the tune of $5million by an A
In what is traditionally a time for kicking back and reflecting on another summer richly iced with success, Lance Armstrong could face some of the most trying days of his season over the coming week. After the disclosure last week that a US insurance company is withholding $5 million in prize money from Armstrong because it suspects him of doping, the US Postal star could face further headaches if his performance consultant, Michele Ferrari, is convicted of doping offences later this week. The latest hearing in the protracted trial of the Italian doctor is due to start tomorrow (Tuesday) and a verdict could be returned by Thursday. Armstrong's prize-money dispute pits the six-time Tour winner against the Dallas-based firm, SCA Promotions. Under an agreement struck with Armstrong and US Postal parent company Tailwind Sports in 2001, SCA owes Armstrong $5 million. SCA Promotions says that it is withholding the bonus payment while it "asks questions" about the legitimacy of Armstrong's Tour de France victories. Armstrong and Tailwind Sports responded last Tuesday by filing a lawsuit against SCA at the Dallas County state district court. Tailwind Sports paid SCA a $420 000 insurance premium in 2001 to raise finance for a prize-money scheme agreed with Armstrong for further Tour de France victories. Such policies are common amongst elite American sportsmen and teams, and SCA purports to be the leader in its sector. SCA duly paid up bonuses of $1.5 million and $3 million for Armstrong's fourth and fifth Tour wins in 2002 and 2003. Of its refusal to cough up this time around, SCA's attorney, John Bandy, stated last week: "We believe the contract says we have to pay only in the event of a valid claim." SCA's reservations are based, amongst other things, on allegations made by the book "L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong". SCA have requested that Tailwind Sports provide them with Armstrong's full medical and other records. In the lawsuit filed in Dallas last Tuesday, Armstrong and Tailwind Sports said that SCA didn't have the right to question his Tour victories, which were upheld by cycling authorities. While this bloody war may be just beginning, Ferrari's agonising battle to clear his name is finally nearing its conclusion. In the next twenty-four hours, Italian judge Maurizio Passarini will invite Dario Bolognesi, the lawyer defending Armstrong's controversial trainer, to speak in defence of his client for the final time in a Bologna courtroom. Ferrari is accused of administering drugs which present health risks, illegal importation of medicine, abusing the profession of the doctor and administering doping products. Contacted by procycling today, Passarini's secretary said that the judge could announce a verdict on Thursday. If Passarini considers that more time is needed for deliberation, his decision could be postponed until early next week. If convicted, Ferrari risks a prison sentence which, if under two years, can be suspended. Whatever the additional penalties, a guilty verdict would see his doctor's licence confiscated and, as an inevitable consequence, his association with the world's most famous cyclist curtailed. In other words the enforced end to a relationship with a man Armstrong has defended in the face of intense criticism since 2001. For the six-time Tour winner, news of his stand-off with SCA and Ferrari's day of judgement could hardly make for a more unhappy - and potentially embarrassing - coincidence.
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