Some superstar athletes develop such a close association with the city or state in which they perform that you cannot mention one without the other quickly coming to mind. Do you think of Peyton Manning without the city of Indianapolis being part of the picture? Of course not. Unless, that is, you are from Tennessee and you still associate the Hall of Fame quarterback with that “other” UT school that drapes itself in bright orange. Michael Jordan may have studied and played ball at the University of North Carolina and had an awkward late stint with the Washington Wizards, but he always will be associated with Chicago. Here in Texas, we have developed or displayed plenty of amazing athletic talent on the fields and in the arenas. There is a reason that every movie and television program revolving around high school football takes place in Texas. Just think about some of the household names that have played their sport in our state-Troy Aikman, Vince Young, David Robinson, Tony Parker, Nolan Ryan, and Fred Biggio just to name a few. One athlete of whom we are especially proud is native (Austin) Texan Lance Armstrong. Everyone by now knows his amazing accomplishments and compelling personal story.
Just after his twenty-fifth birthday in 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen, lungs, and brain. Even after drastic surgeries and treatments to remove the diseased areas of his organs, doctors gave Armstrong less than a fifty percent chance of survival. Obviously, he did make a full recovery following this devastating diagnosis and went on to win the Tour de France for a record-breaking seven consecutive years, from 1999 to 2005. Lance Armstrong used his celebrity status to create the Live Strong Foundation, an organization which works to inspire and empower people affected by cancer. Who doesn’t own, or know someone who owns, one of those famous yellow bracelets that have become a marketing phenomenon for the cause? Armstrong’s dedication to shining a light on cancer research is closely felt here in Texas, as well as in the halls of Congress and in charitable circles around the world.
With his high profile and healthy bank account, there certainly have been times at which Lance Armstrong has needed the services of an aggressive attorney to defend his name and image. Most notably, Armstrong has faced ongoing allegations that he has used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, a claim, which he has always adamantly denied. A book titled L.A. Confidentiel: Les secrets de Lance Armstrong was published in France in 2004 and purported to include interviews with those close to Armstrong who could account for his supposed use of steroids. Even though its author, David Walsh admitted that it contained only circumstantial evidence, the allegations caused a great deal of unwanted publicity. In 2005, a former employee named Mike Anderson testified in court filings that he found suspicious drugs without an attached doctor’s prescription in Armstrong’s hotel room in Spain. The following year, Armstrong’s former teammate, Frankie Andreau, and his wife shared in court testimony that they had witnessed conversations between Lance Armstrong and his doctor back in 1996 during which he admitted to use of various drugs. The accusations that Lance Armstrong used illegal drugs to boost his performance, particularly during his recovery from cancer, continue to follow the athlete. He has vowed to continue to use legal and media channels aggressively to clear his name, guaranteeing that attorneys in Texas will be revisiting the relevant laws concerning steroid use, defamation, and other content that may prove helpful to Armstrong’s efforts.
Last week, Lance Armstrong encountered another challenge to his professional standing. During the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain, Armstrong broke his collarbone and is now back home in Austin for surgery and recovery. He had a steel plate and twelve screws inserted in an effort to stabilize the collarbone. Despite this obvious setback, Lance Armstrong still has hopes to race in the Tour de France in July. As his team manager Johan Bruyneel said, “A broken collar bone in the month of March does not at all compromise the start of the Tour de France or your performance in the Tour de France.” In Armstrong’s case, it appears that the time he will spend away from his chosen profession is not going to be extensive. For some other athletes, the time out of the limelight can prove to be more problematic. If a long-term injury or personal circumstances keep someone away from the playing field or racing circuit for an extended period and the public starts to forget about his star power, the financial and marketing commitments that have been made to the athlete might be unceremoniously dropped. Effective legal counsel can be crucial in an athlete’s desire to maintain standing in his profession and its related monetary perks.
There is strong evidence to support the idea that athletes, as well as celebrities who have followed other avenues of public notoriety, should always keep a sports and entertainment lawyer nearby. From the first professional contract that is signed to the allegations against one’s character that are inevitably made in hopes of financial gain to the unfortunate instances in which an athlete makes a decision to engage in illegal activity, there will be legal issues that need to be addressed. Lance Armstrong has discovered this truth through the unending reports of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Undoubtedly, Armstrong’s Live Strong Foundation also employs attorneys to ensure that contributions are being used effectively and that cancer patients seeking assistance are given proper advice. He may find more cause for an attorney’s expertise if this current injury threatens his promised livelihood or negotiations over missed engagements are required. With opportunities to defend such high-profile personalities and protect their futures, the area of sports and entertainment law is a specialized one of high stakes and great reward.

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