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But rider said to have generated three-times that sum in return

In the United States, being suspected of defrauding a Federal agency or of using its finances for illicit purposes is, not surprisingly, the kind of activity that can bring a world of pain your way.

The US Postal Service has Federal status and under a Freedom of Information Act request, broadcaster ESPN has obtained records which show that the organisation spent $31.9 million sponsoring Lance Armstrong and his USPS team between 2001 and 2004, when the rider was, perhaps, at the height of his powers.

Armstrong's spokesman, Mark Fabiani, said in a statement: “Over the years, many different sponsors have seen — and continue to see — the benefits of associating with Lance and his cycling teams.”

And that is, indeed, true, or at least it has been. Studies by a pair of marketing firms covering 2001-2004 which have been obtained by the Associated Press, claim that USPS received $103.6 million in domestic value from sponsoring the Armstrong-led teams during his historic run of Tour de France wins. That return was referenced by the Texan himself in a recent tweet spotted by BikeBiz, when he said: "[US Postal Service] got 103 million in return. 300%! We should all be so lucky to be victimized like that. Sign me up!"

However, last week, sportbusiness.com revealed a new study by Ace Metrix on celebrity endorsements ranked Armstrong’s Radio Shack advertisement as the second worst of 2010 in terms of effectiveness, behind a Tiger Woods ad for Nike.