Lance Armstrong has avoided a possible $100m payout in damages to the US government after settling a whistleblower lawsuit before it was due to go to court.
Armstrong reached a $5m settlement with the US federal government in a deal announced on Thursday, with both sides preparing to go to court in Washington on May 7.
The lawsuit, which was originally filed by Armstrong’s former US Postal team-mate Floyd Landis in 2010, saw the government attempting to reclaim the millions of dollars it had spent supporting the team during six of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France titles.
The team, which was sponsored by the Postal Service in Armstrong’s maiden Tour win in 1999, increased it’s sponsorship from 2000 to 2004, paying around $32m to the team in that time, of which Armstrong received $13.5m according to court documents seen by the Associated Press.
The government joined the lawsuit set in motion by Landis in 2013 after Armstrong confessed to doping throughout all seven of his Tour wins, which had been stripped by the UCI following the reasoned decision of the US Anti-Doping Agency based on the testimony of Armstrong’s former team-mates.
Landis, who himself lost a Tour de France title in 2006 after failing a doping control, set the lawsuit in motion against Armstrong in 2010 under the False Claims Act, claiming that the Texan had defrauded the government out of money by cheating to win bike races.
With the government able to sue for treble of what they paid out in damages, Landis is set for a 25 per cent windfall having been the initial whistleblower for the case.
“The Postal Service and Landis had sought $100 million in damages from Lance, but in light of several significant court rulings rejecting and limiting the plaintiffs’ damages theories, the case today settled for $5 million, plus an additional amount to pay attorneys’ fees to Landis’ lawyer,” said Elliot Peters of Keker Van Nest & Peters, LLP, counsel for Armstrong. “Lance is delighted to put this behind him.”
In a statement, the 46-year-old maintained the lawsuit as baseless, and said that the memories of riding with the US Postal team “still mean a lot” to him.
“While I believe that their lawsuit against me was meritless and unfair, and while I am spending a lot of money to resolve it, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes and inappropriate conduct, and make amends wherever possible,” Armstrong said.
“I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”
Armstrong received a life-ban from cycling (as well as other sports which was partially lifted in 2016) when the reasoned decision was issued, and has since faced a number of lawsuits and settlements that have cost him a reported $20m.
Major sponsors dropped him in the wake of his confession, including major long-term deals with Nike, Trek Bicycles and Oakley. Armstrong also stepped down as a chairman of his cancer charity Livestrong which he began after recovering from life-threatening testicular cancer in the 1990s.
He is still believed to have a fortune worth millions thanks to property investment, and owns two bike shops as well as the endurance sports company Wedu. Armstrong also made a return to cycling with his Stages podcast in 2017, discussing each day of the Tour de France with a co-host and has continued to produce it for various races in the 2018 season.
“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong said on the resolution of the lawsuit.
“I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life — my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”