Lance Armstrong’s former manager Johan Bruyneel must pay back $1.2 million of sponsorship money to the US government after an investigation revealed doping and cheating.
Bruyneel and Armstrong were part of the US Justice Department’s False Claims Act started by former team-mate and whistleblower Floyd Landis. Landis revealed how taxpayers were cheated via the US Postal Service’s sponsorship of Armstrong’s team through 2004.
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Armstrong won the Tour de France seven consecutive times, titles that were stripped after a 2012 ruling by US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
The whistleblower case ran on for five years. Armstrong in April agreed to pay $6.65 million to settle with the government – $2.75 million went to Landis under federal government whistleblower rules. The remaining 3.9 million goes to the government.
Former Belgian cyclist and manager Johan Bruyneel is on the hook for $1.2 million, a federal judge ordered on Wednesday. He must also pay an additional $369,000 in civil penalties, which could be avoided given he is a foreign citizen living overseas.
The 54-year-old has been living for some time in London.
“This ruling marks the finish line of a lawsuit brought by Floyd Landis and the federal government to recover money paid by the US Postal Service to sponsor a professional cycling team featuring Lance Armstrong,” US District Judge Christopher Cooper wrote.
Armstrong admitted to doping in 2013. In the USADA’s Reasoned Decision, he was shown to doped with testosterone, EPO and blood transfusions from 1999 to 2005 when he won his seven titles.
His former team-mates testified against him. They confirmed his doping regime and his influence over the USPS and Discovery Channel teams and his encouragement of the others to follow his banned practices.
US Postal Service gave $32.3 million to sponsor Bruyneel and Armstrong’s team from 2000 to 2004. The False Claims Act allowed the government to seek triple the amount, nearly $100 million, but 46-year-old Armstrong settled for much less.
Bruyneel “directed and facilitated” the doping scheme with the US Postal Service team. The judge wrote that he was paid $2,047,833 in salary and bonuses when USPS sponsored the team. It showed that USPS financed 60 per cent of the management company Tailwind’s expenses, around 60 per cent of Bruyneel’s salary.
“[We are] very pleased with the precedent set by this case, which resulted in a doping athlete being held responsible to a sponsor for millions of dollars,” Landis’ attorney Paul Scott, told USA Today Sports.
“That result sends a simple and clear message to others contemplating the same conduct. Doping and cheating may get you ahead of the pack temporarily, but sooner or later justice will catch up.”