WASHINGTON, Feb 22, 2013 – The US government joined a lawsuit Friday
alleging doping-disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong defrauded former sponsor US
The government filing in federal court to join a lawsuit filed by Floyd
Landis, himself an admitted dope cheat who lost the 2006 Tour de France crown
because of doping, came after Armstrong and US lawyers could not reach a deal
over damages issues.
“Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks
with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed
because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged,” Armstrong
attorney Robert Luskin said in a statement.
Landis, a former Armstrong teammate on the now-defunct US Postal team,
filed a lawsuit against Armstrong claiming that Armstrong defrauded taxpayers
and the government by saying he was not taking performance-enhancing drugs as
he won a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005.
Armstrong, 41, confessed last month that he was a dope cheat in a
television interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Landis filed his lawsuit under the False Claims Act, which allows citizens
to sue for alleged fraud against the government and receive as much as a third
of any money recovered.
The law allows for the recovery of treble damages, or in Armstrong’s case
triple the sum of the US Postal sponsorship, which ran from 1999 through 2004
and was worth about $30 million.
Luskin said that rather than damaged by its relationship with Armstrong and
the cycling team, the US Postal Service received major benefits as a result of
the sponsorship deal.
“The Postal’s Services own studies show that the Service benefited
tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100
million,” Luskin said.
Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles last year after the US
Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) uncovered overwhelming evidence, included testimony
from 26 witnesses, he was at the heart of a major doping conspiracy.
In addition to the Landis lawsuit, Armstrong was sued on February 7 by a
Texas insurance firm seeking $12 million for bonus money paid to the cyclist
for the Tour de France triumphs that no longer exist.
The US government move comes two days after Armstrong said he would not
cooperate with a USADA probe into dope cheats in cycling but would be willing
to help other anti-doping inquiries.
Armstrong’s refusal to testify under oath about the details of the scheme
and others who might have been involved dims his chances of shortening a life
ban from all World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctioned sports.
USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart had wanted under-oath details from
Armstrong as USADA pursues its probe of former team manager Johan Bruyneel’s
role in the conspiracy and its report’s claims that International Cycling
Union (UCI) officials might have helped conceal Armstrong’s doping.
Armstrong claimed in his interview with Winfrey that he had stopped doping
after the 2005 Tour triumph and was not a ringleader who forced teammates to
take banned substances or lose their place on the squad.
Tygart, in a later television interview with CBS, said Armstrong lied to
Winfrey because evidence showed he had pressured other riders and that doping
tests showed he cheated when he rode in the Tour de France in 2009 and 2010.