Lance Armstrong will be allowed to use the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in professional cycling in the 1990s and 2000s as evidence in his defence in a $100 million lawsuit being brought against him by the US federal government.
The premise of the case is that Armstrong and the Tailwind Sports management company that owned the US Postal team, defrauded the government out of funds as Armstrong and other members of the team used performance-enhancing drugs.
At a hearing on Tuesday to determine what could be accepted as evidence at the trial in May, government officials sought to convince the judge that allowing Armstrong to say that “everyone was doing it” would “put the entire sport of cycling on trial”, and mislead the jury into giving Armstrong a “free pass” just because other riders were also doping.
However U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper partly agreed with Armstrong, saying that he would allow the former rider to present evidence of widespread doping in professional cycling as part of his defence, with Armstrong’s legal team likely to argue that the issue of doping didn’t play a part in the US Postal Service’s decision to sponsor the team.
“The endemic nature of PED [performance-enhancing drug] use in cycling creates a possible inference that the Government was aware of the widespread use of PEDs,” Cooper wrote in his ruling, as reported by USA Today. “That…would similarly raise a possible inference that the USPS did not particularly care about any PED use by Armstrong — again, yielding an inference that PED use was not material to the Government’s funding decisions.”
However the judge also said that this evidence should not be regarded as relevant to Armstrong or the team’s decision to use performance-enhancing drugs or submit false claims to the US government.
USA Today also reports that Greg LeMond and Betsy Andreu, who the government says will offer first-hand accounts of Armstrong’s doping, will both be able to testify in the case, something that Armstrong had sought to prevent, arguing that they had no relevant testimony to offer and had been vocal critics in the past.
The case had been scheduled to go before a jury in November, but has now been delayed due to ongoing legal wrangling, now being scheduled to take place in May 2018.