The State Government can finally reveal disgraced drug cheat Lance Armstrong was paid $1.5 million by the former Labor government to race in the 2009 Tour Down Under – the first of three lucrative TDU contracts kept hidden from the SA public for ten years.
Details of Armstrong’s contract – which also included two first-class return airfares, hotel accommodation and reimbursement for reasonable travel, food and other incidental expenses – are now able to be revealed, with its strict secrecy provisions expiring.
Treasurer Rob Lucas said he had promised, prior to the election, to release the full details of Armstrong’s confidential contract “as soon as legally possible” so South Australians could make up their own minds about Labor’s use of taxpayers’ money.
“Finally, we can reveal to South Australians what Labor MPs have been happily sitting-on for a decade –that they forked-out a staggering US $1 million (approx. AUD $1.5 million*) on behalf of taxpayers to an athlete who was subsequently exposed as the ringleader of the world’s most sophisticated doping program in sporting history,’’ said Mr Lucas.
“$1.5 million – that’s a whole lot of lycra.
“By anyone’s standards it’s an astonishing amount of money to pay one man for a six-day race, not to mention the extra sweeteners on the side – first-class airfares for two, hotel accommodation, meals and other incidentals.
“South Australians have a right to know this information. We tried to release it straight after the election but couldn’t legally under the terms of the contract, which explicitly prevented either party from publicly disclosing its details for ten years.
“And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Labor, led by former Premier Mike Rann, also entered into contracts with Mr Armstrong for the 2010 and 2011 Tour Down Under races, but unfortunately we’re prevented from releasing those details for another year and two respectively.
“It should be noted that the 2009 and 2010 contracts were all part of Labor’s pre-election build-up for the March 2010 election.”
Mr Lucas said, curiously, there had been no provision in the 2009 agreement for a ‘termination of contract’ should Armstrong bring the Tour Down Under into material disrepute.
This was despite persistent doping allegations against the 7-time Tour De France winner, and his 2009 TDU return to pro cycling triggering fresh claims about his cheating, which ultimately led to the US Anti-Doping Agency investigation and his downfall.
“The Labor Party should also explain why there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt to recover any part of this extraordinary amount of money since Mr Armstrong was finally exposed as a drug cheat,” Mr Lucas said.
Mr Lucas said he had personally insisted upon the inclusion of specific public disclosure clauses in industry assistance contracts signed under the Marshall Government.
“While we accept there will always be times we need to keep certain aspects of commercial arrangements confidential, I have ensured that in industry assistance contracts – including the former government’s Future Jobs Fund grants which I’ve honoured and the investment we made in Mitsubishi through the Economic and Business Growth Fund – that we ensure those details can be made public.”
Details of Armstrong’s 2010 contract can be released on March 31, next year.
*Based on the USD exchange rates at the time of payment in late 2008/early 2009