ROME - Lance Armstrong's next challenge from a cycling rival will come in court.
The retired seven-time Tour de France champion has been ordered to stand trial in Italy on charges of defaming Filippo Simeoni. The case is to be heard starting March 7, to settle a feud from the 2004 race.
If convicted, Armstrong faces a fine rather than jail time, his lawyer in Italy, Enrico Nan, said Thursday. Nan said Armstrong was indicted Wednesday.
Armstrong's representatives in the United States did not respond to requests for comment.
Armstrong is being investigated for chasing Simeoni during a stage breakaway in the 2004 race and reportedly threatening him for testifying about doping abuse in the trial of an Italian doctor associated with the American rider.
In an interview with Velo News published earlier this month, Armstrong said he regretted pursuing Simeoni last year, but then said he didn't do it.
"I didn't chase him. I mean, I didn't go across to him. I was on the wheel," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said Simeoni began "whining."
"He was yelling, not working, because they (the others in the breakaway) were (angry) at him. That's what happened," Armstrong said. "He did not work at all. He was whining, like some Italians do... 'Yah, yah, yah'... all these things, and I'm like, 'Shut up and ride your bike. C'mon.'"
The other part of the charge relates to doctor Michele Ferrari, who was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence in October 2004 for sports fraud and malpractice. He has always denied he dispensed illegal substances to athletes and is appealing the sentence.
In 2002, Simeoni told an Italian court that Ferrari advised him to take performance-enhancing drugs. Later, Armstrong reportedly called Simeoni a liar, and the Italian sued for libel.
Armstrong cut his ties with Ferrari after the doctor was convicted.
Armstrong also made headlines in August when French sports daily L'Equipe claimed that he used the banned performance enhancer EPO during his first Tour win in 1999.
Armstrong angrily denied the charges, saying he was the victim of a "witch hunt." He also questioned the validity of testing samples frozen six years ago, and how the samples were handled.
In October, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said there was relief in the sport that Armstrong will not be returning to next year's race.
Armstrong criticized LeBlanc the next day, describing him as "someone who continues to ignore the truth."
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