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Government Sues Lance Armstrong, Wants $100 Million



Lance Armstrong has cycled back into the headlines. But first, this refresher.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: A superb piece of cycling by Armstrong today. This rider is something special.


LANCE ARMSTRONG: On Wednesday, October 2, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The guy's been through so much. He deserves this more than anybody. This is his Tour de France - Tour de Lance.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Armstrong will now be banned from cycling for life.


OPRAH WINFREY: Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?


GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's been four years since the cycling legend admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, and the fallout continues. In this edition of Out of Bounds, our weekly conversation about sports and culture, we're going to talk about Lance's legal battle with the government. Joining us is Juliet Macur, The New York Times sportswriter, and author of the book "Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong."

Thanks so much for coming to the studio.

JULIET MACUR: You're welcome.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Justice Department, as I understand it, is suing Armstrong on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, which sponsored Armstrong's team. They want $100 million, which is a lot more than I think they paid the team initially. The judge rejected Armstrong's request to dismiss the case. Now the case goes to jury.

Can he win? What's happening here?

MACUR: I personally think that he can win for sure. And I...


MACUR: ...Hate to tell this to the government (laughter). I haven't been a big fan of this case from the beginning, even though the U.S. Postal Service obviously needs some money. We would love to keep Saturday delivery going on. You have to look at it as - you know, they're going to have to pick a jury. And among those people, there's going to be one person who has had a connection to cancer, who believes that Lance Armstrong did a good thing by raising cancer awareness when he was head of Livestrong.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I guess this gets to the heart of the legacy of Lance Armstrong or his enduring popularity. I mean, this is a guy who lied, who threatened his teammates. And yet, you suggest that there are people who still have this deep connection to him.

MACUR: That's true. For people like me, who have covered it for a long time, it seems to be unbelievable why people would still follow somebody who had lied for so many years and, like you said, crushed his teammates, blackballed people from his sport. But you have to understand that for a long time, Lance Armstrong stood for life to a lot of people. He stood for - if you get cancer, you don't have to die.

And everybody around the world - it was millions upon millions of people - wore the yellow Livestrong rubber wristband. And there was this community of people who came together and sort of made a team for cancer awareness. And no matter what he did, he's still a god to them in some way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's talk a little bit about the government's case. The Postal Service paid sponsorship money, as we mentioned. Now it wants the money back. Who can argue with the fact that the Postal Service really deserves some sort of compensation?

MACUR: Well, obviously, Lance Armstrong's attorneys have spent almost seven years fighting this case. So, so far, their biggest argument is, which we'll - they'll bring to the jury, is, hey, listen, Lance Armstrong was the head of the U.S. Postal Service team for a number of years in the late '90s and the early 2000s. And people all over the world could see his jersey winning the Tour de Frances - U.S. Postal Service. And they made so much money from that marketing and from that free advertising, so you could say that it didn't matter how much the U.S. Postal Service said Lance Armstrong stole. It was more in marketing value than supposedly their contract was worth.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things I'm curious about - do you think he actually ever really felt remorse and feels remorse? I mean, do you think that he is someone who is trying to rehabilitate himself, could make a comeback? Or is he someone who really understands the severity of what he did?

MACUR: Well, I think he's trying to make a comeback. I know he has a podcast now that's pretty popular. Well, in certain circles (laughter), it's pretty popular. But I absolutely don't think he feels any remorse. And I interviewed him for a long time for the book. And I asked him many times - I said, I'll give you an out here. Just explain to me why you would do this. How sorry are you? And he basically said he was sorry that he got caught and that's about it. He said everybody else was doping, and he wasn't doing anything that other people weren't doing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Juliet Macur writes for The New York Times, and she's the author of the book "Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong."

Thanks so much for being with us.

MACUR: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRIBECA'S SONG, "GET LARGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.