Lance Armstrong and former US Postal cycling team manager Johan Bruyneel are attempting to dismiss a £78 million United States civil fraud lawsuit relating to charges of doping against them.
Armstrong and Bruyneel argue that team sponsor, government agency US Postal Service, was aware of allegations of doping during the 1999-2005 period when Armstrong took seven Tour de France titles but did nothing to investigate them.
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Under the False Claims Act, the US government filed a suit in April to reclaim $31.9m sponsorship money paid to the team from the US Postal Service claiming it was obtained fraudulently. A penalty of up to three times that amount could also be delivered – up to $120m (£78m).
The Texan also argues that the allegations are now too old to be brought against him as they pertain to events that happened over six years ago, beyond the statute of limitations.
Armstrong’s motion to get the case dimissed states: “Although the government now pretends to be aggrieved by these allegations, its actions at the time are far more telling: Did it immediately fire the Postal Service Team? Did it suspend the team pending an investigation? Did it refer the matter to its phalanx of lawyers and investigators at the Department of Justice for review? It did not.”
Armstrong’s motion continues: “Rather than exercise its right to terminate the sponsorship agreement, it instead renewed its contract to sponsor the team. The rationale behind the government’s decision is obvious. Armstrong had recently won the 2000 Tour de France.
“The government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure, and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor. It got exactly what it bargained for.”
Armstrong was dogged with allegations of doping throughout his career, something which he strongly denied at the time. Armstrong won several legal cases against people and organisations that accused him of doping. Many of those are in the process of reclaiming money paid to Armstrong in damages.
On January 18 2013, Armstrong gave a live television interview with Oprah Winfrey during which he admitted to doping during all seven of his Tour wins, and throughout his professional cycling career.
When asked by Winfrey how many people he had sued when they levelled accusations of doping at him, Armstrong said: “To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people… I’m sure we did. It’s inexcusable. I know that there are people who will never forgive me – I understand that. All this is a process for me, and one part of that process is to speak with them directly and say, ‘I’m sorry – I was wrong and you were right’.”
A ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit was originally filed by Armstrong’s former US Postal team-mate Floyd Landis in 2010. Along with Armstrong and Bruyneel, Landis is also attempting to sue Tailwind Sports (the team’s management company), Thomas Weisel (Tailwind investor), Bill Stapleton (Armstrong’s agent), Capital Sports and Entertainment (Stapleton’s agency), and Barton Knaggs (Capital Sports and Entertainment executive). The US government joined Landis’s case in February 2013.
Many of Armstrong’s former team-mates at US Postal, including Landis, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie have also confessed to doping during their time with Armstrong at the squad and gave testimonies during interviews conducted by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and during a previous federal investigation.
Is successful, Landis is entitled to claim 15 to 30 per cent of any money recovered from Armstrong and the other parties named in the case.
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