Sports

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.

Lance Armstrong (Reuters)

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.

'Treble' damages

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.

Frankreich Radsportler Lance Armstrong in Pau (picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/B. Doppagne)

Armstrong maintains that USPS profited from their sponsorship with his cycling team, negating the US government's lawsuit.

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.

dm/kl (AP, Reuters)

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