It looks like Lance Armstrong’s courtroom battles are not quite over: a federal judge has declared that the whistleblower suit filed against him by the U.S. government—which was instigated by former teammate Floyd Landis—should proceed.
Last year, Armstrong’s lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the $100-million civil action, which alleges that the use of performance-enhancing drugs by the U.S. Postal Service was an act of fraud that warrants massive financial restitution. Government lawyers say the Postal Service was deceived into paying $40 million to the team from 1998 to 2004, including nearly $20 million to Armstrong personally.
Armstrong’s attorneys argued that the case was too old to bring under the six-year statute of limitations. They also claimed that the government probably knew about Armstrong’s doping, but turned a blind eye because of all the positive publicity he and the Postal cycling team generated at the time.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins brushed these arguments aside. According to Reuters, Wilkins said complaints brought by the government were “rife with allegations that Armstrong had knowledge of the doping, and that he made false statements to conceal the doping and the attendant obligation which would have resulted if the government had known of the doping.”
In an 81-page document, Wilkins wrote:
There could possibly be documents in the government's possession suggesting that it had reason to know the cycling team was doping, despite the findings of the investigation by the French authorities. If so, there may be force to the defendants' argument that the government should have conducted its own investigation sooner, and that if it had undertaken such an investigation, it would have uncovered doping. But the Court cannot make that determination based on the present record and based solely on the allegations in the complaint, as required when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Court denies without prejudice, the defendants' motion to dismiss the government's action as time-barred.
As USA Today reports, the government is seeking $32,321,821.94 in damages. Under the False Claims Act, damages can be increased—in this case up to nearly $100 million.
Read more of our ongoing coverage of the greatest scandal in cycling:
- Our First Exclusive Interview with Armstrong Since Oprah
- Editor-in-Chief Chris Keyes: Why We're Giving Lance a Second Chance
- Armstrong's Most Trusted Teammate, George Hincapie, Spills
- A History of Outside's Lance Armstrong Coverage