The US government fired back at Lance Armstrong in a federal court filing after the doping-disgraced US cyclist had asked for the dismissal of a civil fraud lawsuit against him.
Armstrong, who admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs to win the seven Tour de France titles that were stripped from him, had argued that the government, including his former team sponsor US Postal Service, should have known he was doping all along, despite his lies denying it.
Armstrong also argued in a July request to dismiss that US Postal Service received the benefits attached to his victories for its US$40 million sponsorship from 1998 to 2004, but the filings on Monday in response to Armstrong’s claims challenged those assertions.
“The government did not get a winner,” the government filing declared. “On the contrary, it got a fraud, and all of the publicity and exposure that goes along with having sponsored a fraud. That is decidedly not what the government bargained for. The United States should have an opportunity to recover damages for the money that it paid in reliance on Armstrong’s many lies.”
Armstrong, who confessed his doping in January in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, pulled off “arguably the greatest fraud in the history of professional sports,” according to the government filing.
“Now that he is being called to account for the damage he caused, Armstrong contends that his deceit should have been clear to everyone all along ... but the Postal Service, like millions of others, cannot be faulted for having been deceived by Armstrong,” it said.
The original case against Armstrong was brought in 2010 by his former teammate Floyd Landis, himself a disgraced US rider who was stripped of a Tour de France title and later admitted doping.
Under whistleblower laws, Landis would receive a portion of the damages if the government, which joined his case in February, is successful.
With potential triple damages to be recovered under the False Claims Act, Armstrong could be hit for US$120 million if he loses the case.
Five fraud lawsuits have been filed against Armstrong, including one by Acceptance Insurance Co seeking US$3 million in bonuses paid for Armstrong’s Tour wins from 1999 to 2001.