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Lance Armstrong paid $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money to appear at 2009 Tour Down Under

Joe Robinson
1 Apr 2019

Organisers say Armstrong's appearance fees were warranted considering his presence

Lance Armstrong was paid $1.5 million in Australian taxpayers’ money to appear at the 2009 Tour Down Under as part of his comeback to cycling.

The Sunday Mail in Australia has revealed that Armstrong received a payment equivalent to around £800,000 to make his return to the professional peloton in 2009 after ending his three-year retirement.

It has only now been confirmed that the money came from taxpayers’ pockets, as the information was classified for a 10-year period. 

The payment, which came from the South Australian government, included first-class air tickets to the race for two people, hotel accommodation and food.

Armstrong was also paid for his appearances at the 2010 and 2011 editions of the race, with the details of these payments set to be released in the coming years.

State treasurer Rob Lucas revealed the information to the Australian newspaper, commenting that the people deserved to know where their money had been spent.

'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 10 years,' said Lucas

'By anyone's standard, that'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.'

Armstrong finished 29th on General Classification at the race, 49 seconds down on overall winner Allan Davis. His best result was 23rd on Stage 5 to Willunga.

Just 18 months later, Armstrong admitted to having doped for most of his professional career and was subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and handed a lifetime ban.

Unfortunately for the Tour Down Under, they had no stipulation in the contract for repayment if Armstrong was ever convicted for doping. Although this comes as little concern to the South Australian government, which suggests his appearances were worth more than they cost.

Minister for Tourism and Sport, Leon Bignell, commented, ‘Lance Armstrong’s appearance at the Santos Tour Down Under came at a time when he was considered the greatest cyclist in the world.

'He brought the eyes of the world with him to South Australia when he rode in the Tour Down Under, taking the race to a whole new level. The state government has continued to leverage this exposure, ensuring crowd numbers continued to climb even after Lance’s final appearance.'

Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur reflected the comments of Bignell, stating, ‘His [Armstrong's] presence, the returned benefits to the race and to this state and to awareness around cancer, money cannot buy.

'The smallest increase that we saw was 100 per cent, it was staggering, and we are still benefiting from that legacy.'