The U.S. Postal Service will be allowed to continue its quest to recover more than $40 million it spent sponsoring Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France while he was on banned performance-enhancing drugs.
U.S. District Judge Robert L.Wilkins, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled June 19 that the federal government, representing the USPS, can move forward with its complaint under the federal False Claims Act accusing Armstrong of fraud and breach of contract.
The civil suit was first filed in 2010 by Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis under the False Claims Act, which allows a U.S. citizen to sue any entity for defrauding the federal government.
The government is suing Armstrong for leading a scheme to use banned performance-enhancing drugs from 1998 to 2004 to win seven Tour de France races while being sponsored by the USPS. He was stripped of all seven of the Tour wins in 2012.
Armstrong denied doping allegations for years before coming clean to Oprah Winfrey on national television in January 2013.
The Department of Justice joined the suit a month later. Judge Wilkins’ ruling allows the claims of fraud and breach of contract to stand against Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports Corp., however, he did not make a ruling on the merits of the government’s case, only that it was allowed to go on with its suit.
Armstrong’s lawyers wanted to stop the suit and argued that the USPS benefitted from the “valuable exposure” it received as a Tour de France team sponsor. They also argued that the USPS joined the suit too late.
Wilkins said the complaints brought by the government and Landis were "rife with allegations that Armstrong had knowledge of the doping, and that he made false statements to conceal the doping and the attendant obligation which would have resulted if the government had known of the doping.”
Under the False Claims Act, the government may be able to get triple damages, which would be more than $120 million. A New York Times article stated that Armstrong’s income was around $125 million in 2012.
Armstrong is facing other civil suits, including one filed by SCA Promotions, which wants to recover at least $12 million it spent on marketing the cyclist, as the Record recently reported.