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Monday, December 10, 2012

Michigan State College of Law



 I would like to thank Goldwyn Harper and the other members of Michigan State College of Law’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society, along with the Labor Law Society, for inviting me to speak on my experiences in sports and labor law.  I had a wonderful time in East Lansing.  I had great interaction with the students, and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!  

St. John's University School of Law


I would like to thank Professors Ettie Ward and Jeff Fannell for inviting me to guest lecture for St. John’s University School of Law’s LL.M. Program in International and Comparative Sports Law.  This is a unique program with tremendous goals, and I was honored to lecture there.  The students were fantastic, and all of them have bright futures in sports law.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong and the Art of Crying Uncle


Yesterday, Lance Armstrong brought his legal fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to a screeching halt by declining to enter USADA’s arbitration process, a process which he was forced into by losing his federal lawsuit against USADA.  In his lawsuit, Armstrong had alleged, in the main, that USADA lacked jurisdiction, and that its arbitration process was violative of his constitutional rights.  Armstrong could have appealed this decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but chose not to.  Truth be told, he stood almost no chance on appeal.
USADA had lined up a significant number of witnesses, including many former teammates, to testify against him.  They also alleged they had a significant amount of scientific data to back up their claims of Armstrong’s doping.  USADA claimed that “numerous witnesses provided evidence to USADA based on personal knowledge acquired, either through direct observation of doping activity by Armstrong, or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping to them that Armstrong had used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and hGH through 1996.”
USADA believed that it had this case in the bag.  They had former teammates, specifically former teammates without the baggage of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, teammates most likely not previously linked to doping that an arbitration panel would find credible.  Rumors have abounded that former teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and others had agreed (or more likely, been coerced) to testify against Armstrong.  In exchange for their testimony, these cyclists will most likely receive some penalty (albeit reduced in exchange for the expectation of hanging their former teammate) that will be served in the coming year.  USADA had to penalize them in some way to make them more credible to the arbitration panel.
While Armstrong had never failed a test, USADA had Armstrong’s old blood and urine samples, which USADA had re-examined with newer technology and methods that they believed would scientifically prove that Armstrong doped.  USADA was willing to stake its entire reputation on the Armstrong case.  If Armstrong were to prevail, it would have destroyed the credibility of USADA, and crippled them as an organization going forward.
I believe that Armstrong recognized and respected the strength of USADA’s evidence.  Additionally, given that USADA has a 58-2 record in arbitrations, it is pretty clear that USADA has an upper hand in the process.  Once Armstrong’s lawsuit was bounced, he was facing untenable odds.  Personally, the news that Armstrong would not arbitrate the matter came as a surprise to me.  Having watched this matter closely (albeit from the sidelines), I was convinced that Armstrong would arbitrate, and in the event of defeat, seek further court intervention.  Armstrong struck me as a human being with a singular focus, protecting his Tour titles, and thus his legacy.  I never thought he’d capitulate.
Needless to say, my prediction was incorrect.  Instead, Armstrong has taken an economically (and perhaps personally) practical approach by essentially entering into an Alford plea.  In a criminal case, an Alford plea is one where a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his/her innocence.  In so doing, one admits that the prosecuting body has enough evidence to convict.  This is exactly what Armstrong has done here.  Armstrong cried “uncle”, but the cry was calculated and well thought out.  It may keep his legacy alive, tarnished, but alive.
Within hours of Armstrong’s announcement that he would not participate in USADA’s arbitration, one of his main sponsors, Nike, issued a statement in which Nike expressed its continued support for Armstrong.  In addition, American Century, another Armstrong sponsor, has also expressed continued support.  The timing of Nike and American Century’s announcements make it clear that Armstrong consulted and cleared his strategy with them prior to his decision.  Without their support of his decision to withdraw from arbitration, perhaps he takes a different path.
An arbitration hearing would have most likely permanently tainted Armstrong, even if he had prevailed.  Numerous witnesses would have testified that he engaged in systemic doping.  Scientific evidence would have been produced.  Even in victory, there would have been defeat.  The public would never be able to scrub the testimony of Hincapie, Leipheimer, et al from their collective memory.  And most likely, neither would his sponsors.
In consulting with his sponsors (and obtaining their support) before taking this tact, Armstrong most likely has protected something more important that his 7 Tour de France titles – his Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Livestrong brand.  No one, not even USADA (although you never know), can dispute the importance of Armstrong’s charitable work.  His foundation has raised approximately $500 million for cancer research.  His Livestrong products generate almost $17 million a year.  By keeping his sponsors, and thus his foundation alive, Armstrong can slowly wipe some of the tarnish from his cycling legacy, and further cement his charitable legacy.  In the end, it is the more important legacy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sports Law CLE at PNC Park



We had an outstanding group of presenters at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s inaugural Sports Law CLE at PNC Park on July 23, 2012.  Led by moderator Ralph Cindrich, the group included Dan Kunz, Larry Silverman (former in-house counsel for the Pittsburgh Pirates), legendary sports agent Tom Reich and his brother, Sam Reich, a noted trial attorney.  I was honored to be part of this panel.  We had a lively discussion on the NCAA’s imposition of discipline on Penn State and other hot topics in sports law.  To top off the evening, presenters and attendees of the program took in the Pirates’ game against the Chicago Cubs.
The Pennsylvania Bar Institute will be holding another Sports Law CLE at PNC Park on August 15, 2012 beginning at 4:30 p.m.  We have some great presenters lined up to discuss more hot topics in sports law.  Attendees will get 2 hours of CLE, including .5 hours of ethics.  Attendees will also receive a ticket in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club section of PNC Park for that night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers (additional tickets will be available for guests of attendees).  It’s a great way to pick up your CLE credits and take in our red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Breakfast with Judicial Candidate Mark Tranquilli

Please join me, my partner, Tina O. Miller, and David Cook, of counsel to our firm, for a breakfast with accomplished trial lawyer and prosecutor, Mark Tranquilli, who is exploring a candidacy for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County for 2013.  The event is Thursday, July 19, 2012 (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) at The Rivers Club.  Please RSVP to our assistant, Michelle Brinkos at (412) 894-1380 or mbrinkos@farrellreisinger.com.  All are welcome, and we look forward to seeing you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

NHL Entry Draft Panel Discussion June 21, 2012

Join the Duquesne University School of Law's Sports and Entertainment Law Society, the Allegheny County Bar Association Sports Law Committee and the Sports Lawyers Association on June 21, 2012 from 6-9 pm at the Duquesne University School of Law, Edward J. Hanley Hall 900 Locust Street Pittsburgh, PA 15282, for networking and a panel discussion with NHL lawyers. The NHL Entry Draft is being held on June 22-23 at the Consol Energy Center (directly across from the Duquesne University Campus; it's a short walk from Duquesne University School of Law). Attendees of this event will be eligible to attend the NHL Entry Draft.


Please RSVP to Professor Dan Kunz (kunzlaw@comcast.net) if you would like to attend the event on June 21st, and if you would like to attend the NHL Entry Draft. Limited tickets are available for the NHL Entry Draft.
We look forward to seeing you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School


I am honored to have been selected to the Board of Advisors of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School.  The Board of Advisors is comprised of some of the most influential members of the sports law and business communities, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  I look forward to working with the Board of Advisors and Professor Mike McCann on this project.