Lance Armstrong faces $100m lawsuit filed by US government
The disgraced cyclist has paid out more than $10 million in damages after admitting to doping in 2013. Now a federal judge has cleared the way for the US government to pursue a $100 million lawsuit against Armstrong.
A federal judge on Monday ruled that the US government can sue disgraced former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong in what could amount to a $100 million lawsuit.
The US Justice Department (DOJ) has accused Armstrong of defrauding the government by cheating while riding under the US Postal Service (USPS) banner. USPS had paid more than $32 million in sponsorship fees to Tailwind Sports Corporation, Armstrong's now-defunct cycling team.
Armstrong was one of the world's most celebrated athletes before his cheating was uncovered in 2012. The US Anti-Doping Agency led the anti-doping probe and moved to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles (1999-2005). The disgraced cyclist finally confessed publicly the following year that he took part in one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in sport.
In the first known doping incident, coaches pumped a dangerous mix of strychnine and pure egg whites into Thomas Hicks before his marathon at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. In the absence of guidelines at the time, he was declared the winner of the race - even after collapsing at the finishing line and hallucinating for hours. The boost may nearly have cost Hicks his life.
Argentine soccer ace Diego Maradona has battled with substance abuse on two separate fronts: During the 1980s, he developed a serious cocaine habit that would follow him throughout his life and lead to some serious health scares, but he also tested positively for ephedrine in 1994, provoking a FIFA ban and the end of his prolific career as a midfielder.
Born as Heidi, Krieger was a female shot putter for East Germany at the height of the Cold War. Communist officials fed Krieger with staggering amounts of steroids, altering her appearance. Krieger began to publicly identify as transgender and later opted to have gender reassignment surgery, becoming Andreas.
A successful Canadian sprinter with a stellar track record, Johnson's doping scandal overshadowed much of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. When blood samples tested positive for stanozolol, he was disqualified three days after winning the gold medal in the 100-meter sprint. Though Johnson admitted to doping, he maintained that he had never taken stanolozol - implying that he might have been set up.
Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison in 2008 after lying to US federal investigators about her part in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) doping scandal. Jones, the most prominent athlete linked to the scandal, had denied all allegations against her but later tested positive for tetrahydrogestrinone supplied by BALCO, leading to the end of her career.
Alex Rodriguez is one of the most successful baseball players of all time, producing numbers rarely seen since the days of fellow Yankees Joe DiMaggio in the 1940s and Babe Ruth in the '20s. Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season after admitting to steroid abuse. He has made a comeback and hopes to redeem himself by completing 700 home runs before he retires from the sport. He has 678.
Ullrich was German cycling's poster child. He won the 1997 Tour de France and two medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and continued to compete internationally for several years before doping allegations first arose in 2006. He managed to dodge these until 2012, when a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling found that he had used steroids for many years.
A number of investigations between 2010 and 2012 led to Lance Armstrong's monumental downfall in January 2013. Although allegations had been levelled at him repeatedly, Armstrong managed to hide his steroid abuse for years. Having conquered testicular cancer, Armstrong was once a national hero who even hinted at a future career in politics in his native Texas. That's now history.
The lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2010 by Armstrong's former teammate, Floyd Landis, before the federal government joined in 2013, allows the prosecution to sue to get that money back and for "treble" damages (three times the amount). Landis, who himself was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping, stands to earn 25 percent of any damages paid.
Armstrong and his attorneys had sought to block the lawsuit, claiming the former cyclist didn't owe the USPS anything since the agency had made far more money from the sponsorship deal than it paid in.
Armstrong camp resilient
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington said in his ruling that Armstrong had made a "persuasive case," but that his doping had "bestowed the government with an undeserved windfall," adding that a decision on damages should be made by a jury.
Armstrong's attorney, Elliot Peters, remained buoyant, however, maintaining that "there is no actual evidence of any quantifiable financial harm," to the Postal Service.
"The government may now proceed to a trial that, as a practical matter, it cannot win," Peters said.
Armstrong, became one of the most popular sports figures after he recovered from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain. He went on to build a $500 million global brand and charity foundation on the back of his success. However, in the aftermath of his doping confession and ban from the sport, Armstrong has taken a significant financial hit, losing all his major sponsors and being forced to pay out more than $10 million in damages and settlements.
The lawsuit being filed by Landis and DOJ is by the far biggest Armstrong has faced.