Lance Armstrong’s lawyer has told a federal court that the US Postal Service (USPS) should have been aware that professional cycling was a “cesspool” of doping when it first sponsored his team and accused the government agency of instead choosing to ignore the issue.
The allegation was made in the False Claims Act case originally brought by Armstrong’s former team mate Floyd Landis and subsequently joined by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
The case concerns the purported misuse of tens of millions of dollars of government money, in the shape of sponsorship, to finance the team’s doping programme.
Demonstrating that USPS was aware of the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in the peloton but sponsored the team anyway is a key part of Armstrong’s defence – although the cyclist himself continued to vigorously profess his innocence right up until his televised confession to Oprah Winfrey in January 2013.
In a discovery conference call on Wednesday, Armstrong’s lawyer Elliott Peters told US District Court Judge Christopher Cooper, “They [USPS] wanted to look the other way and enjoy the lucrative benefits of the sponsorship,” reports the New York Daily News.
It is two years since the DoJ first joined the case which has so far dragged on through the discovery phase with no trial date yet set, although Armstrong’s legal team have said they plan to ask for summary judgment, meaning the judge would rule on the case, rather than a jury trying it.
Should he lose the case Armstrong, banned from sport for life in 2012 and stripped of results including his seven successive Tour de France victories, could be liable to pay the government as much as $100 million – three times the amount USPS paid in sponsorship during the period in question.
As the ‘whistleblower’ and originator of the action which was launched in 2010 Landis, himself handed a two-year doping ban in 2007 and disqualified from his own Tour de France win from the previous year, stands to receive a third of any moneys recouped.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.