US Federal Government joins Floyd Landis whistleblower case against Lance Armstrong
Action could result in multimillion dollar payout for Armstrong... and multimillion dollar payday for Landis
The United States Federal Government has decided to join the whistleblower lawsuit brought by Floyd Landis against Lance Armstrong and others connected with the former US Postal Service cycling team. Official confirmation came this evening, shortly after a Wall Street Journal report, that the US Department of Justice has joined the action against Armstrong, former US Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel and the team's management company, Tailwind Sports.
According to the Department of Justice, Armstrong and others "knowingly" broke their "contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules" through the use of performance enhancing substances.
"The Postal Service contract with Tailwind required the team to enter cycling races, wear the Postal Service logo, and follow the rules banning performance enhancing substances – rules that Lance Armstrong has now admitted he violated," commented Stuart Delery, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice.
The amounts at stake dwarf those that Armstrong may have to repay in relation to separate lawsuits brought by The Sunday Times and SCA Promotions, each seeking repayment of seven figure sums paid to the disgraced cyclist in 2006 after he sued them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Armstrong and others named in the whistleblower lawsuit could have to repay up to three times the $31 million the team received in sponsorship from the US Postal Service from 1999 to 2004.
Armstrong won the Tour de France in each of those years, as well as in 2005 when the team was sponsored by Discovery Channel, but was last year stripped of all those victories and banned for life.
Yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart had been lobbying Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Department of Justice join Landis’s lawsuit.
Tygart reportedly told the Attorney General that USADA’s investigation into the US Postal team had uncovered evidence of fraud relating to federal funds.
The website also reported that one of the reasons for Armstrong’s decision, announced this week, not to make a formal confession of doping to USADA was because it was unable to provide guarantees relating to any potential federal action.
Armstrong and other members of the US Postal team were previously the subject of a federal investigation shelved in February last year.
Earlier this month, however, federal sources confirmed that they are now investigating him in relation to potential charges including obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation.
Landis brought his whistleblower action in September 2010 under the False Claims Act, which incentivises those with knowledge of fraudulent activities to bring an action on the government’s behalf.
Former US Postal rider Landis, who would go on to win the Tour de France with Phonak in 2006 only to be stripped of the title after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone, eventually confessed to doping in May 2010 after years of denial.
Should his whistleblower lawsuit result in the government recovering any money, Landis would be entitled to a percentage of it.
At the time Landis filed the lawsuit, Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Fabiani said: “This news that Floyd Landis is in this for the money reconfirms everything we all knew about Landis,” describing him as “a serial liar, an epic cheater and a swindler.”
Fabiani added: “What remains a complete mystery is why the government would devote a penny of the taxpayers’ money to help Floyd Landis further his vile, cheating ambitions.”
I think it was Hamilton who claimed the conjoined twin. I don't dislike Landis. I don't dislike Hamilton. Both of them were caught up in drug taking of the nineties. Armstrong is a different case. Not being caught and dominating the sport while taking drugs would mean that going forward the Tour, UCI and pro-cycling were effectively powerless to drug cheats of the highest order. This action means they are not. There are lots of sub-plots to this as well, the legal actions (abuse of the law), intimidating witnesses, fraud and lying under oath.
Landis is in comparison a hapless boob who got it wrong. But decided to do the right thing. He could have walked away and shut up, Armstrong would have got away with it all, but now he won't. I thank Hamilton and Landis for this. It shows that actually, despite it being compromised, they have some integrity.
People talk about the money, but in their ill-advised defences both racked up legal fees which virtually ruined them. A hard place to be after all their endeavour. Hamilton's book royalties will likely only give him a bit of a cushion. Compare that to the multi-millions that Armstrong has reaped from endorsements and victories.
I am happy that the federal government in the US have finally picked up the mantle.