A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected the bid of Lance Armstrong to dismiss a federal whistleblower lawsuit that claims that the disgraced cyclist and his former cycling team, sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, had defrauded the government through a scheme to use banned performance enhancing drugs.
Wilkins also denied a request by former USPS team manager Johan Bruyneel to dismiss the lawsuits against him. Judge Robert Wilkins in an 81-page ruling allowed the government's case to proceed. Wilkins wrote there could possibly be documents in the government's possession suggesting that it had reason to know the cycling team was doping, despite the findings of the investigation by the French authorities and added the Court accordingly denies without prejudice, the defendants' motion to dismiss the government's action as time-barred. The federal suit is one of two pending fraud cases against the cyclist, the other being a case filed last year by SCA Promotions, a sports insurance company that seeks more than $12 million in costs and returned prize money for bonuses it paid to the cyclist for winning the Tour de France from 2002 to 2004.
The complaints brought by the government and Floyd Landis, Armstrong's former teammate, 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, said U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington, D.C.
The 42-year-old cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins and banned for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012. USADA accused Lance Armstrong of engineering one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in sports. In 2013, Armstrong admitted to using banned drugs to win Tour de France and has been facing several civil lawsuits since then to erode his reputation as the world's most popular and successful athletes. Court papers have revealed that damages in the case handled by Judge Robert Wilkin could top $100 million.
Court papers submitted by the lawyers of Armstrong reveal that the U.S. government has been seeking to recoup more than $105 million from Armstrong, Tailwind, and former team manager Johan Bruyneel. The papers show this sum reflected triple damages under the False Claims Act for claims made after June 10, 2000 that was 10 years before the lawsuit began. If Armstrong and other defendants are found liable for making false claims, they could be forced to pay damages totaling three times the amount of the claims.
Robert Luskin and Elliot Peters, two of Armstrong's lawyers, argued that the Postal Service benefited from the huge exposure it received from its sponsorship and the lawsuit had been brought up very late.
Landis filed a lawsuit against Armstrong under the False Claims Act that allows whistleblowers pursue fraud cases on behalf of the government and receive rewards if successful. In February 2013, the U.S. Justice Department joined the case with a hope to recover some of the estimated $40.5 million that the Postal Service paid from 1998 to 2004 to Armstrong and his teammates.
The case is Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corp et al, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 10-00976.
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