A trial date of 6 November 2017 has been set for the Lance Armstrong whistleblower case after a federal judge dismissed an attempt by lawyers acting for the disgraced cyclist to defer the trial until next year.
US district judge Christopher Cooper last week dismissed a call by Armstrong’s legal team to give summary judgment on the long-running case, instead ordering that it be tried by a jury.
The lawsuit was initially brought under ‘whistleblower’ legislation called the False Claims Act by Armstrong’s former team mate at the United States Postal Service (USPS), Floyd Landis.
He alleged that Armstrong and others had misused federal funds, in the form of sponsorship money, to finance the doping programme that would brought Armstrong seven Tour de France victories between 1999 and 2005.
The US Department of Justice joined the action after Armstrong, banned from cycling for life in 2012 and stripped of those Tour de France victories, finally confessed to doping early the following year.
Should the case go against the 45-year-old, it could cost him up to $100 million – three times the amount USPS paid in sponsorship. If so, Landis – himself stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping – would receive a substantial cut of the damages as the person who brought the action.
Armstrong’s attorneys had argued that USPS had suffered no damage because it had gained greater value from his successes than the $32.2 million it paid in sponsorship.
Judge Cooper dismissed that argument in a ruling delivered on Valentine’s Day, saying:
Because the government has offered evidence that Armstrong withheld information about the team’s doping and use of [performance-enhancing drugs] and that the anti-doping provisions of the sponsorship agreements were material to USPS’s decision to continue the sponsorship and make payments under the agreements, the Court must deny Armstrong’s motion for summary judgment on this issue.
The Court concludes that the monetary amount of the benefits USPS received is not sufficiently quantifiable to keep any reasonable juror from finding that the agency suffered a net loss on the sponsorship, especially if one considers the adverse effect on the Postal Service’s revenues and brand value that may have resulted from the negative publicity surrounding the subsequent investigations of Armstrong’s doping and his widely publicized confession.
Determination of damages must therefore be left to a jury. Accordingly, the Court declines to grant Armstrong summary judgment on damages and will set the case for trial.
That will now open on 7 November in Washington, DC - which means that the time that will have elapsed between Landis initiating the action and the trial starting will be longer than it took Armstrong to win seven editions of the Tour de France.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.