It turns out an Orange County attorney has been along for much of Tyler Hamilton's ride from Lance Armstrong cycling teammate to U.S. Olympic gold medalist to Armstrong-doping accuser on last night's 60 Minutes.
Advising Hamilton for years has been Chris Manderson, a partner at Newport Beach firm Manderson Schafer & McKinlay, who in an interview this weekend maintained his client did not go public out of greed (as Camp Armstrong claims) but because he wanted to get in front of a story that was about to break.
Among Manderson's corporate clients was the high-end jeans maker Rock & Republic, whose owner Michael Ball faced legal challenges over the years concerning
, sexual harassment allegations, bankruptcy proceedings and doping talk surrounding the Ball-sponsored Rock Racing cycling team. Ball, an avid cyclist, got his start making cycling clothing. Manderson says he was basically Ball's consigliere.
The lawyer tells Drew Combs of The AmLaw Daily that Ball called in March 2009 seeking legal assistance for Rock & Republic team member Hamilton, who had just tested positive for drugs. Manderson helped Hamilton negotiate an eight-year suspension with the United States Anti-Doping Agency that led the cyclist to retire. Hamilton wanted to then just "ride into the sunset," as the lawyer put it, taking with him the secrets about doping and Armstrong's U.S. Postal cycling team. But after Floyd Landis testified in May 2010 that he and other cyclists, including Armstrong, juiced, federal prosecutors eventually showed up on Hamilton's doorstep, according to Manderson.
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Here is an excerpt of his interview Saturday with Combs:
Drew Combs: The government, of course, has the ability to compel someone to make an appearance. But 60 Minutes producers can't force anyone to do an interview. Why did Tyler Hamilton agree to talk to them?
Chris Manderson: My normal recommendation to Tyler is that there is no benefit to being in the news. That was my first response when a 60 Minutes producer called in March. But we knew that Tyler's story was going to come out at some point. [60 Minutes] had clearly done [its] homework and knew what was going on. We concluded that talking with [them] would give Tyler an opportunity to get out in front of this and tell his story. Tyler would get an opportunity to talk about the Faustian bargain he had to make to become an elite cyclist.
The lawyer and his client were prepared for the blowback from cycling's governing board and Team Armstrong, which today are vehemently denying Hamilton's assertions. Predicting the reaction from the International Olympic Committee, Hamilton even gave back his medal before anyone asked for it.
Calling Hamilton a close friend, Manderson said he suspects he'll continue representing the cyclist through the media blitz and ongoing federal investigation, although it is clear his client is looking forward to the day he can indeed return to his quiet cycling training business in Colorado and ride off into that sunset.