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SBD Global/January 16, 2013/People and Pop Culture

South Australian Gov't To Pursue Suit Against Armstrong Following His Alleged Confession

The South Australian government will ask disgraced cyclist LANCE ARMSTRONG "to return the money he was paid to race at the Tour Down Under," according to the AAP. Premier JAY WEATHERILL said that the state government "had previously received legal advice that it could not demand the American return his appearance fees, understood to be several million dollars." But following reports that Armstrong has confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs and that he is willing to return U.S. taxpayer funds that went to his team, Weatherill said the state government was "more than willing" to ask for its money back. Weatherill: "Mr. Armstrong has deceived the cycling community around the world and many South Australians will feel they were deceived by him. We'd be more than happy for Mr. Armstrong to make any repayment of monies to us" (AAP, 1/15). In Sydney, Michael Idato noted media and brand consultant JANE CARO said that the choice of OPRAH WINFREY to interview Armstrong's confession "is revealing in itself." Caro said, "Winfrey is the proxy for throwing yourself on the American public's mercy. If you're going on Oprah you're 'fessing up to something. You're giving us mitigating circumstances." But Caro said that "how Armstrong handles himself in the interview" will determine whether it works because TV "responds to the truth." Caro: "It's very good at picking phoniness. And people hate that more [than] the sin itself. His sin is one thing, it has been his trenchant denial for so long that [it] has actually condemned him much more." The interview will air on Friday at 1pm in Australia on Winfrey's network, OWN, in the U.S. and on Australia's Discovery channel simultaneously (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/16). QUOTEN METER's Manuel Weis reported pay-TV channel Discovery Channel will show Winfrey's exclusive interview with Armstrong live in Germany. The channel "has secured the rights to the interview for Germany." The channel "will air the interview live at 3am Friday morning and at 7:15pm in a rerun." In addition, free-to-air TV channel DMAX "also will air the interview at 7:15pm on Friday evening (QUOTEN METER, 1/15).

JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON: In N.Y., Albergotti & O'Connell cited sources saying that U.S. Justice Department officials have "recommended joining a federal whistleblower lawsuit aimed at clawing back sponsorship money" from Armstrong. Former cyclist FLOYD LANDIS in the suit alleges that Armstrong and team managers "defrauded the U.S. government when they accepted money from the U.S. Postal Service." The "deadline for the Justice Department to join the suit is Thursday" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/15). Also in N.Y., Thompson & O'Keeffe reported Armstrong is "in talks to return some of the millions of taxpayer dollars he received" from the USPS, which sponsored his team from '98-04. The negotiations "may be an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution or prevent the government from joining the whistleblower suit filed" by Landis, who was stripped of his '06 Tour de France victory because of doping. Armstrong Monday taped an interview with Winfrey where he reportedly confessed to doping, but not everyone in a group of close friends and advisers "thought the sit-down was a good idea." Sources said that some of his advisers "believe it will increase his liability in civil litigation beyond the whistleblower case" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/15).

TALKING THE TALK...: The WSJ's Albergotti & O'Connell in a separate piece wrote under the header, "Behind Lance Armstrong's Decision To Talk." Armstrong's legal team had been "divided about a possible confession, with some expressing concern about its potential effect on continuing litigation." His team includes ROBERT LUSKIN and PATRICK SLEVIN at Patton Boggs, JOHN KEKER and ELLIOT PETERS at Keker & Van Nest, and lawyers from Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. Armstrong also had been "regularly consulting" his attorney TIM HERMAN. Currently, it is "unclear what kind of financial effect his problems are having" on Armstrong (WSJ, 1/15). CBS’ Jack Ford said, “You have to believe that there were some significant battles going on inside of his camp. Public relations people probably saying, ‘Look, you need to take control of this story, move forward. We’re a forgiving nation. If you want to be able do things and resurrect your image you have to apologize and get out there.’ But I got to believe that his lawyers were saying, ‘That’s a terrible idea,’ because legally you’re now going to be exposing yourself to all kinds of civil suits” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 1/15).

...WALKING THE WALK: Winfrey Monday morning said she would “choose not to characterize” whether she thought Armstrong was genuinely “contrite” during the interview, which will air Thursday and Friday on OWN. She said, “I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment. I would say that he met the moment" ("CBS This Morning," 1/15).

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