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Armstrong asks Austin court to sanction his former assistant

Six-time defending Tour de France champion asks for a minimum of $125,000 after former personal assistant said he found a banned steroid in cyclist's apartment

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Published in the Austin American-Statesman on April 2, 2005

Lance Armstrong asked a Travis County District Court judge on Friday to sanction his former personal assistant and the attorneys representing him for filing a legal claim against the six-time Tour de France champion that was "below the level of tabloid journalism."

Armstrong also asked the judge to award him a minimum of $125,000 to pay for legal fees, inconvenience, harassment and out-of-pocket expenses caused by the litigation. It "was an egregious character assassination founded upon a demonstrably false string of sensational, untrue and fabricated allegations," the document stated.

It was Armstrong's answer to a counterclaim filed Thursday by Mike Anderson, who served as Armstrong's personal assistant for two years. In that counterclaim, Anderson said he found a banned steroid in Armstrong's bathroom in early 2004, and that the cyclist intentionally avoided an out-of-competition drug test when he returned to Austin after the race last July.

The back-and-forth legal sparring began in December, when Armstrong filed a lawsuit in regard to Anderson's termination and Armstrong's alleged promises to help his personal assistant open a bike shop.

Armstrong's attorneys initially offered Anderson a severance package of roughly $10,000 — three months pay — in November. Anderson countered with a $500,000 settlement proposal. That offer was turned down, and the lawsuit was filed.

According to the claim filed by Anderson's attorneys Thursday, Anderson said the cyclist "cheated for profit with the use of banned substances."

Anderson also described Armstrong's quest for a record six Tour titles as an "evil, oppressive and dishonest scheme that equals the greatest scandal in sports history.''

The court documents filed by Armstrong's attorneys told a different story. According to those documents, Anderson admitted in a deposition taken Wednesday that he had no direct knowledge of Armstrong taking a banned substance.

"I didn't have any intention of repeating that (drug) stuff again, it was only things I had seen throughout the course of my employment,'' Anderson said in his deposition. "If I had seen him taking something I knew was wrong, that would be different. But it was only a hunch, and I left it at that.

"I have an opinion. I have suspicions. But beyond that, that's all I can say about it.''

Hal Gillespie, Anderson's Dallas-based attorney, was not available for comment late Friday.

Anderson's counterclaim also said that two people — landscaper Derek Russey and John Korioth, a personal friend of Armstrong's — witnessed and possibly helped Armstrong allegedly avoid a drug test last summer, when representatives of the World Anti-Doping Agency stopped by Armstrong's ranch in Dripping Springs. Armstrong was not home at the time.

Korioth and Russey, in sworn depositions, denied any knowledge of Anderson's allegations. They both said that neither Anderson nor his attorneys contacted them for information before filing Thursday's counterclaim.