JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge is pushing Lance Armstrong closer to his first sworn testimony on details of his performance-enhancing drug use, ordering the cyclist to answer questions about who knew what and when about his doping, including possibly his ex-wife and his attorneys.
Nebraska-based Acceptance Insurance Holding is seeking the information in its lawsuit to recover $3 million in bonuses it paid Armstrong from 1999 to 2001. A judge previously refused to dismiss the case.
Acceptance is trying to prove a yearslong conspiracy and cover-up by Armstrong to commit fraud. It wants to know when several of Armstrong’s personal and business associates — including ex-wife Kristin Armstrong, team officials, the cyclist’s lawyers and International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid — first learned of his doping.
Armstrong’s attorneys objected to those demands in court documents, arguing the former cyclist already has acknowledged cheating and that Acceptance is engaged in a “harassing, malicious … fishing expedition” intended to “make a spectacle of Armstrong’s doping.”
Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak last week ordered Armstrong to provide documents and written answers to a series of questions by the end of September. The case has been set for trial in April 2014.
The questions seek information dating to 1995 and ask Armstrong to detail who was paid for delivered performance-enhancing drugs, who determined what amount to use and administered them, and who was aware of his drug use. Acceptance specifically asks for information on when and how Armstrong’s closest friends, advisers, ex-wife and business partners learned of his doping.
After more than a decade of denials, Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey in a January interview that he doped to win the Tour de France seven times, titles that have now been stripped away. But the admission lacked details and he has refused to provide sworn testimony to a the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, even when it was presented as his only chance to lift his lifetime ban from sport.
Mark Kincaid, an attorney for Acceptance, declined to comment Tuesday, but previously said he would push to depose Armstrong under oath. Armstrong attorney Tim Herman did not respond to a request for comment.
Armstrong’s lawyers said information about ex-wife Kristin Armstrong and the attorneys is exempt from disclosure under spouse and attorney-client privilege. Acceptance argues there are no protections for spouses and lawyers who may be aware of fraud.
The judge ordered Armstrong to answer the questions. He can claim spouse or attorney-client privilege, but if he does, Acceptance would be allowed to challenge whether the information should be withheld and ask the judge to decide.
The USADA report on Armstrong included witness statements from at least three former teammates who said Kristin Armstrong participated in or at least knew about doping on the teams and knew team code names for the blood-booster EPO kept in her refrigerator. Postal rider Jonathan Vaughters testified that she handed riders cortisone pills wrapped in foil.
Acceptance also wants Armstrong to reveal any payments made to cover up doping.
The insurer’s list of names includes McQuaid, who is fighting to keep his job as head of cycling’s international governing body. McQuaid and predecessor Hein Verbruggen have been accused of ignoring the doping culture in the sport and accepting money from Armstrong in exchange for turning a blind eye to his team’s doping practices. Both have denied any wrongdoing, and McQuaid has said he was “fooled” by Armstrong.
The Acceptance lawsuit is just one of several pending against Armstrong.
Federal prosecutors have joined a whistle-blower lawsuit that seeks to recover more than $30 million in sponsorship money paid to Armstrong by the U.S. Postal Service. SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based insurance company, has sued for $12 million it paid him in performance bonuses.
And in California, a federal judge is considering a class-action lawsuit against Armstrong by readers of his book “It’s Not About the Bike” that claims fraud and false advertising.
Armstrong recently settled with the British newspaper The Sunday Times, which sued him to recover damages from a previous libel case.