Fraudster of the Week - Lance Armstrong
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
More than four years after his tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong is once again making headlines in connection with his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This time, Armstrong’s doping misdeeds are being aired in a D.C. federal court, where the Department of Justice has sued Armstrong under the federal False Claims Act on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
From 2000 through 2004, USPS paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team; the vast majority of this money went directly to Armstrong, the team’s cancer-beating star. As part-and-parcel of the sponsorship arrangement, the team’s owner, Tailwind Sports Company, promised the USPS that its cyclists would follow the rules of professional cycling—rules that flatly prohibit the use of PEDs. It is now common knowledge that both Armstrong and his fellow teammates consistently flouted this rule, winning several Tour de France titles in the process.
In 2010, Armstrong’s former teammate, Floyd Landis, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Armstrong, Tailwind, and Johan Bruyneel, Tailwind’s sporting director. Despite the team’s ongoing violations of doping rules, Landis’s suit alleged that Tailwind and Armstrong falsely represented to the USPS that the team was not using PEDs. Following Armstrong’s public doping confession in 2013—and a related decision by the Los Angeles-based U.S. Attorney not to file criminal charges against Armstrong—the federal government intervened in Landis’s suit.
Now, more than six years after Landis initially blew the whistle, a federal judge has issued a ruling that will force Armstrong to settle with the government or face a potentially embarrassing trial. In his Monday decision, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper rejected one of Armstrong’s key arguments—namely, that any damages suffered by the USPS due to the doping fraud were more than offset by the benefits that the Agency accrued from the sponsorship. Under Judge Cooper’s ruling, Armstrong will still be allowed to make this argument to a jury—but if it fails, he could be on the hook for nearly $100 million.