Statute of limitations means that Landis is unlikely to face legal action from Armstrong
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Statute of limitations means that Landis is unlikely to face legal action from Armstrong

by VeloNation Press at 3:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

Floyd LandisHe’s known for taking many of his critics to court in the past, but Lance Armstrong and his legal team appear to have declined to take action against Floyd Landis, his former team-mate and current chief accuser.

One year ago, Landis sent an email to Steve Johnson, USA Cycling CEO, detailing what he said was repeated doping by Lance Armstrong. As the New York Daily News has noted this weekend, there is a twelve month statute of limitations in California, where Landis made his claims.

Its expiry without any action from Armstrong’s legal team would appear to indicate that he has run out of time to take any action over what he insists are false statements.

Those allegations were repeated at the time of the Tour of California last year, this time publicly via an email exchange released to the press. Armstrong commented at the race, criticising what Landis said.

“With regards to the specific allegations, the specific claims, they're not even worth getting into it. I'm not going to waste my time or your time,” he told journalists at the race.

“We have nothing to hide. We have nothing to run from. It's our word against his word," Armstrong said . "I like our word. We like our credibility.”

Since then, what began as an FDA investigation into Landis’ claims has gathered pace, with USADA, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, plus both the civil and criminal divisions of the Department of Justice becoming involved.

VeloNation recently spoke to sources with knowledge of the case and was told that the investigation is continuing, and that Landis’ statements had been backed up by ‘multiple witnesses.’

According to the New York Daily News, the same statute of limitations applies each time the claims have been repeated. It quotes San Francisco attorney James Wagstaffe on the matter, who has represented major publishers in defamation cases, and defended Victor Conte against an eventually-abandoned claim brought by boxer Shane Mosley.

Wagstaffe says that Armstrong can still sue in relation to later claims, but that the damages he could claim would be dramatically reduced unless he can show that the newer claims were more harmful to his reputation than Landis’ original email to Johnson.

Legal action appears unlikely, with the newspaper quoting Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Fabiani as saying there are no plans to bring him to court. “We have no intention of wasting any more time or money on Floyd Landis,” he said. “He is a person who is so discredited already that it would be impossible to discredit him anymore.”

Change in stance:

UCI President Pat McQuaid took the same approach when the claims were first made, telling the New York Times last May that the rider had no credibility and was lying. “I think Landis is in a very sad situation and I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true.

“This is a guy who has been condemned in court, who has stood up in court and stated that he never saw any doping in cycling. He’s written a book saying he won the Tour de France clean. Where does that leave his credibility? He has an agenda and is obviously out to seek revenge.”

However just over eight months later, McQuaid appeared to have changed his stance significantly when he was interviewed at the UCI headquarters by Cycling Weekly.

“A lot of the stuff he says in relation to what went on in those years is probably true,” he said in an article printed in early February.

“There was a lot of doping doing on in those teams in those years. If it [the federal investigation] proves that the US Postal team were involved in a lot of doping, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me. In those days it was possible to beat the system.”

The UCI itself threatened to sue Landis after the former rider said that it helped cover up positive tests. A legal firm representing the governing body issued a letter on February 7th demanding a retraction from him within a 15 day period. He declined to do so and, almost three months later, no action has been initiated.

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