Armstrong Fights Fed’ Suit

On Tuesday, Lance Armstrong urged a federal judge to dismiss the False Claims Act lawsuit filed against him by the Justice Department. The cyclist argued that the Postal Service got the worth of its money out of its sponsorship deal and that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

The lawyers for Armstrong said in the filing in U.S. District Court in Washington that the Postal Service that sponsored the cycling team of Lance got exactly what it bargained for, including tens of millions of dollars’ worth of publicity, exposure to more than 30 million spectators at international cycling events, and hundreds of hours of television coverage. The Postal Service paid about $40 million to be the title sponsor of the teams of Lance Armstrong from 1998 to 2004 and is believed to have reaped at least $139 million in worldwide brand exposure in four years — $35 million to $40 million for sponsoring the Armstrong team in 2001, $38 million to $42 million in 2002, $31 million in 2003, and $34.6 million in 2004.

Early this year, the Justice Department joined the whistleblower lawsuit filed by Floyd Landis, an ex-teammate of Armstrong, against the seven-time Tour de France winner. Whistleblowers, under the False Claims Act, can share with the government in any recovery of money based upon their disclosures. It is claimed by the government that Lance Armstrong violated his contract and was “unjustly enriched” while cheating to win the Tour de France. These claims were made after the cyclist, to the surprise of everyone, admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used banned performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour.

The filing of Lance Armstrong says the government alleges that a single fact was hidden, and relies on that allegation to justify sitting on its claims for a decade and the Postal Service Cycling Team, like many other teams in the peloton, was doping. Armstrong’s lawyers said that the government’s actions at the time are far more telling although it now pretends to be aggrieved by these allegations. It was also remarked by the lawyers that the government did not fire the Postal Service Team nor did it suspend the team pending an investigation and the matter was not even referred to its phalanx of lawyers and investigators at the Department of Justice for review. Armstrong’s lawyers went on to remark that the government instead renewed its contract to sponsor the team rather than exercise its right to terminate the sponsorship agreement. The lawyers argued that government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure and acclaim that go along with being his sponsor as Armstrong had recently won the 2000 Tour de France. They added that it is now far too late for the government to revisit its choice to reap the benefits of sponsorship rather than investigate allegations of doping as that was more than a decade ago.

In their defense, the government noted that the contract with the Postal Service required riders to follow the rules of cycling that included bans on performance enhancing drugs and methods and team officials assured the Postal Service that the team wasn’t doping. The lawsuit also named former team Armstrong team director Johan Bruyneel and team management company Tailwind Sports as defendants.

Armstrong Fights Feds’ Suit

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