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June 8, 2010 5:52 PM

As the Bike Wheel Turns: Landis Hires LeMond's Wilson Sonsini Lawyers

Posted by Brian Baxter

After admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career--and making serious allegations against several former teammates, including Lance Armstrong--disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis has hired a legal team familiar with fighting the seven-time Tour de France champion, according to the New York Daily News.

Landis shocked the cycling world in late May when he sent a series of e-mails to sponsors and sports officials accusing Armstrong of teaching teammates how to beat a system designed to detect dopers. Landis also claimed that Armstrong once paid the former head of the International Cycling Union (UCI) to sweep a failed drug test under the rug.

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen, a Dutch lawyer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the organization's general counsel warned Landis the accusations could make him the target of a defamation suit by Armstrong.

Armstrong has vigorously denied Landis's allegations, and his lawyers have released a statement accusing Landis of trying to blackmail their client, attaching to it a series of e-mails sent to Armstrong by Landis in the month before he went public with his accusations.

Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping, subsequently fought a fierce battle to try and clear his name, even writing a book called Positively False. But in June 2008, the international Court of Arbitration for Sport denied Landis's bid to reclaim the 2006 Tour title.

At the time, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Maurice Suh represented Landis. We reached out to Gibson Dunn after Landis made his latest accusations three weeks ago and were told by the firm that it no longer considers him a client.

Instead, in the event Landis faces a criminal case or defamation suit by Armstrong and others related to his claims of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional cycling, he now has a Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati team to represent him.

Corporate partner Mark Handfelt in Seattle told the Daily News that Landis is "our client," adding that the Wilson Sonsini lawyers "that represented Greg LeMond in his dispute with Trek" are now representing Landis.

The Am Law Daily reported last October on the dispute between LeMond, himself a former three-time Tour de France winner, and Armstrong over a signature line of bicycles. The litigation, which was playing out in a federal court in Minneapolis, quietly settled out of court in February. (Apparently the cyclists still don't like each other: LeMond publicly backed Landis when the latter made his allegations against Armstrong.)

Wilson Sonsini's Handfelt was out of the office on vacation on Tuesday and unavailable for immediate comment. Another partner involved in the LeMond case, litigation partner James DiBoise in San Francisco, didn't return a phone call requesting comment.

A call to one of Armstrong's longtime lawyers, Tim Herman, of counsel with Austin-based HowryBreen, was not returned by the time of this post. Herman advised Armstrong and his ex-wife, Kristin, whom LeMond's attorneys subpoenaed in the Minneapolis litigation.

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