The Washington Post

Lance Armstrong presses for dismissal of DOJ’s false-claims lawsuit against him

Cyclist Lance Armstrong wants a federal judge to throw out the government’s false-claims lawsuit against him, saying that the U.S. Postal Service benefited significantly from its sponsorship of him and his team.

“The government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure, and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor,” attorneys for the disgraced cyclist said in court filings this week. “It got exactly what it bargained for.”

Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, said the government was well aware in 2000 of investigations into allegations that his team was using performance-enhancing drugs. But instead of suspending its sponsorship, the Postal Service renewed its contract with Armstrong and his teammates.

“Although the government now pretends to be aggrieved by these allegations, its actions at the time are far more telling,” according to the motion to dismiss filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Armstrong was responding to the Justice Department’s decision in February to join the whistleblower lawsuit of his former teammate Floyd Landis. The government is seeking to recoup millions of dollars it paid out through sponsorship agreements.

Landis’s lawsuit, which became public in January, alleges that Armstrong and the team defrauded the government and violated their Postal Service contract by using performance-
enhancing drugs.

The government’s entry into the case came soon after Armstrong dropped his long-held denials about doping and admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey to using banned substances such as EPO and testosterone.

The case also names the former team manager, Johan Bruyneel, and team owner, San Francisco-based Tailwind Sports, as co-defendants.

Armstrong’s attorneys say it is “far too late” for the government to make its case. The statute of limitations for false-claims lawsuits is six years. Landis’s lawsuit was filed under seal in June 2010, more than six years after the government made its last payment, according to Armstrong’s attorneys.

False-claims whistleblower cases are designed to encourage people to come forward with information about fraud against the government; the law allows people who file such cases to receive a portion of any recovered damages.

The Postal Service, which is struggling to stay solvent, spent more than $31 million during a four-year contract signed in 2000. Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France championship after a positive drug test, stands to recover millions of dollars if the case is successful.

The Justice Department has until September to respond.

Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.

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