Lance Armstrong is anticipated to admit doping to Oprah and the world this week. I am not so much angry or surprised as I am sad. I have admired and followed his career closely. My father and I stood on the Champs Elyse when he crossed the finish line for his 7th and final Tour victory. We even attended his team's victory celebration. Today, hanging above my 10-year-old son's bed is a signed poster of Lance given to me by his longtime coach Chris Carmichael.
As a fan, father and lawyer, I am not sure how to process his forthcoming confession. As a lawyer, I have spent my entire adult life cross-examining defendant doctors, expert witnesses and corporate representatives.
Over the years, I have learned that some people can lie more convincingly than I can tell the truth. I understand that a doctor will lie to save his or her license or reputation. I have seen hospital administrators and claims adjusters lie to keep money from those they harmed.
I have also sat in literally thousands of clients' depositions who have on more than several occasions "misstated the truth." As a Miami lawyer I spend a lot of resources simply verifying my own client's background before we undertake a potential case. And, all too frequently, legitimately injured people destroy their own claims by lying about previous injuries, drug use or falsified work history.
When a plaintiff lies under oath in Florida in a typical personal injury case, they risk having their entire case dismissed and sanctions ordered by the judge. It is not uncommon for the court to order a plaintiff to pay the attorney's fees and costs to the opposing party. Lance may also be charged with insurance fraud.
There are criminal ramifications as well. Florida's Perjury Statute §837 defines perjury as a false statement which is made under oath. A false statement is one in which he or she does not believe to be true. Violating this statute would subject Lance to a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
What I don't understand is why after all these years Lance has decided to come clean? Purportedly he wants to continue to compete in triathlons and other events that have banned him. Can the drive to compete be so strong when balanced by the potential financial loss and criminal exposure? Civilly, I believe he is potentially subject to multiple law suits for fraud, insurance fraud, breach of contract and slander.
Perhaps Lance has executed some sophisticated asset protection plan that will shield creditors and keep him in the lifestyle he is accustomed to? Or perhaps he will seek bankruptcy protection? He also may have made so much money that he can work out a settlement and payback plan.
I cannot imagine how much time and money has been spent chasing him and investigating him for more than a decade. At each juncture, Lance would not only deny the accusation, but often sue the accuser or derail their own professional aspirations. Yet somehow, he has chosen this inexplicable moment in time to confess.
Can Lance still be a hero and a role model if by confessing he encourages others who have lied and cheated in sports and other aspects of their lives to do the same? Or is his legacy forever tarnished and branded as a fraud. Only time will tell.
For now, his poster remains on my son's wall.