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Sports

100m lawsuit will hit Lance Armstrong hard

media File Photo: U.S. Postal Service Team rider Lance Armstrong of the United States raises his arms as he crosses the finish line to win the 204.5 km long 17th stage of the Tour de France from Bourd-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand, France, July 22, 2004 REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong was dealt a heavy blow on Monday, after a US federal judge paved the way for him to stand trial for fraud. The 45-year old has admitted that he could face financial ruin if he loses the 100 million euro lawsuit.
 

"Doping is a big issue for sport, it's the main danger for sport, and for that reason, he has to face sanctions," sports commentator Vincent Chaudel told RFI on Tuesday, shortly after Lance Armstrong was slapped a 100 million euro lawsuit by US authorities.

The case itself has been building for over five years.

It was first brought by Armstrong's former team-mate, Floyd Landis, before being joined by the government in 2013.

Landis stands to make as much as 30 million euros if Armstrong loses.

It's something he cannot afford says Pierre Ballaster: "Armstrong's fortune will be hit hard if he loses this case," the author of L.A Confidentiel told RFI on Tuesday.

"Before any of this court action began, he was worth as much as 120 million euros, today his fortune has been virtually consumed by legal fees."

The banned cyclist is accused of cheating the US government out of 32 million euros, which is the sum he was paid when he rode for the publicly funded US Postal Service team.

"We're talking about public funds," explains Ballaster, "the US Postal Service feels as though it was lied to. It feels that had it known that Lance Armstrong was doping, it would never have signed contracts with him because they were investing public money."

Armstrong claims the publicity he gave the US Postal Service was worth more than the 32 million he received.

A marketing argument that is gaining traction in some circles in France.

"In France, we faced the Festina affair, the major doping affair in the cycling competition in 1997," explains Vincent Chaudel.

The fallout was huge, but so too was the publicity.

"The name of Festina became very well known. Whether positive or negative, the fact that Lance Armstrong won titles with and for the US Postal Service, created value for them."

For now, a trial date is still to be set, but given the "inflexibility" of the American justice system says Ballaster, it won't be long before one is decided.

"This is the problem of someone who climbs so high. The higher you climb, the harder you fall."

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