Never underestimate the American viewer’s appetite for a redemption story. And that’s exactly what Lance Armstrong seems determined to give Oprah Winfrey in the now widely reported interview he granted her. But even if the disgraced cyclist can improve his image, and his damaged brand, what about the legal hot water he has tightrope cycled over for years? The federal investigation that was closed rather ceremoniously last year. The whistle-blower lawsuit by his former teammate, Floyd Landis. The civil claims over the $30 million or so that the US Postal Service spent sponsoring the team. Not to mention the issue of you know, swearing up and down in litigation that he didn’t dope. So, does a couch confession to Oprah on TV really obliterate problems with the law?
The short answer is “sorta.” The longer answer lies in what exactly he says and how he says it, according to Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor. She joins “Which Way LA?” tonight to walk us through the legal loose ends.
Will he speak in heavily lawyer-ed language? Will he go from confession mode to cooperating witness mode? What’s probably most surprising to non-lawyers following the story is that a high-profile target of federal prosecutors can deny, deny, deny and then change his tune and not face perjury charges. What gives? Levenson notes that since charges were never filed it’s not as if Armstrong provided direct denials to federal officials that he’s now contradicting. There were reports that he took the stand back in 2005 during an insurance dispute to deny it under oath, but the statute of limitations makes it tricky to prosecute.
The key to a federal fraud case going forward would be any evidence of an alleged cover-up. Which is why the legal hot water may still be boiling, but it looks as if Lance Armstrong is keen to not being the one dangling over it.