Entertainment & Sports Law

DOJ mulls joining whistleblower suit claiming Lance Armstrong violated postal contract

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Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong in 2006.

The U.S. Justice Department has a Thursday deadline to decide whether to join a whistleblower suit that contends Lance Armstrong’s doping violated a sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Postal Service.

The New York Daily News puts the value of the sponsorship agreement at $30 million, while the Washington Post says it was worth about $35 million. The qui tam law provides for triple damages in whistleblower cases. The suit has been filed under seal.

Armstrong’s lawyers have been quietly working to reach agreements with the Justice Department and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in an effort to allow his return to cycling competition, the Post says. The whistleblower suit was filed in 2010 by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis. Armstrong reportedly offered to pay the United States $5 million to settle claims in the Landis suit, but the amount was rejected as too low, according to CBS News.

Armstrong’s defense in the Landis case doesn’t focus on the doping allegations, according to the Post. Armstrong’s lawyers assert the postal contract was with Armstrong’s team, rather than Armstrong himself. And they contend the U.S. Postal Service gained rather than lost because of the exposure it received through its relationship with cycling.

Some experts told Reuters that Armstrong’s doping confession in an upcoming Oprah interview could spur the Justice Department to join the case. They also pointed out other potential legal problems. A concession could harm Armstrong in a suit filed by a London newspaper seeking return of a half-million-dollar libel settlement for publishing doping accusations. A promotional company in Dallas has also threatened to sue Armstrong for $7.5 million in bonuses it paid him for Tour de France wins.

Armstrong won’t be able to be prosecuted for perjury for 2005 testimony, however, because the statute of limitations has expired.

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