Lance Armstrong – worth pursuing or a lost cause?

Former professional road-racing cyclist Lance Armstrong used doping. He has been stripped of the Tour de France titles he won while under the influence of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Many sponsors have terminated their association with him. Some are now investigating whether they can recover their money. Is it still possible after all this time?

If someone owes you something, you must demand it in good time. If you don’t, your right to claim it in court will expire. The legal claim still exists, but it can no longer be enforced. Making a clear written demand extends the time period.

The right to make a claim for money expires after five years. A claim under an agreement expires five years after payment is due under the contract. If you pay the wrong person or if you’re entitled to compensation for loss or damage, the five year period runs from the time you become aware of the situation. The reason for this is that if there’s been no communication for a long time there comes a point when we need to know where we stand.

On the Armstrong issue, if I were acting for the sponsors I would argue that the expiry period only commenced on the day following publication of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s report.

And a tip to the readers at home: if someone demands money years after the event, don’t just automatically pay them. First consider whether their claim hasn’t actually expired years ago. If you pay, you won’t be able to claim the money back later!

Remember, though, your debtors can use this ploy too. So, if someone owes you money, don’t keep quiet about it for too long. Demand payment regularly and if you haven’t had a response for some time you’d be well advised to send a recorded delivery letter and check the address is valid. If in doubt, give your lawyer a call.