Lance Armstrong faces $95 million whistle-blower lawsuit

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong faces another blow as the US government is suing him for up to $95million (£59m). According to NBC news, the Justice Department joined a whistle-blower lawsuit that Armstrong's former US Postal team-mate Floyd Landis filed in 2010.

The Justice Department alerted the federal government today, according to the article, that it joined the claim filed by Armstrong's former right-hand man. Landis rode side by side with Armstrong from 2002 to 2004, helped him win the Tour de France three times and became his most trusted domestique.

Landis also helped topple the king.

The American from Pennsylvania filed the lawsuit on behalf of the government after seeing first-hand the depth of Armstrong's cheating.

An extract of the 33-page lawsuit read, "Mr Landis personally witnessed defendant Armstrong's use of prohibited substances and prohibited methods ... [and] has direct knowledge ... that Armstrong's prior victories on behalf of the USPS Team were accomplished while doping as well."

The US Postal Service sponsored Armstrong's team from 1996 to 2004. Given Landis' claims - much of which the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) detailed and part of which Armstrong admitted - Armstrong essentially defrauded the government and its tax payers.

"The defendants submitted ... claims for payment to the USPS with knowledge that the USPS team was engaged in doping and other wrongful conduct in violation of the terms of the sponsorship contracts," reads part of the lawsuit. "Although defendants knew they had obtained payments to which they were not entitled, defendants failed to return the funds to the USPS."

The anti-doping agency found Armstrong guilty on August 24 and stripped his results, including all seven Tour de France wins. Last month, Armstrong admitted to doping his way through 2005 in a TV interview with Oprah Winfrey.

He maintains he road cleanly during his comeback, 2009 to 2011, which is disputed by experts and the anti-doping agency.

The whistle blower lawsuit

Under the False Claims Act, a whistle blower lawsuit allows citizens to sue on behalf of the government. If successful, penalties can range up to three-times the amount defrauded.

US Postal Service gave $31.9m to the team from 2001 to 2004, according to an ESPN article last year. Armstrong and the team's management company, Tailwind Sports are facing a $95m battle.

The lawsuit, in addition to Armstrong and Tailwind Sports, names several other defendants: Montgomery Sports, Capital Sports & Entertainment, Thomas Weisel, Johan Bruyneel, Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs.

Landis dealt with his share of problems, going from Tour winner to dope cheat in just days in 2006. He now plays a key part in Armstrong's fall. He is all smiles, too, as the Act entitles Landis to 15 to 30 per cent of the eventual pie.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.