Attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department have filed documents in federal court that explain why they are pursuing a $100 million civil fraud lawsuit against Lance Armstrong – but not other cyclists on Armstrong’s team who committed many of the same doping violations.
“Armstrong was unique,” they wrote.
The federal government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, which paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team from 2000 to 2004. The case is set for trial in November in Washington, D.C.
“It is undisputed that Armstrong was the ‘lead rider’ for the team,” said the document submitted by government attorneys, including Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Justice Department. “He was by far the highest paid rider. For example, in 2001, he was paid $4 million, while some other riders were paid between $30,000 and $37,000. Propelling Armstrong to win the Tour de France each year was the team’s singular focus. He wielded an ‘iron fist’ and, together with the manager Johan Bruyneel, ran the team as a `dictatorship.’”
The government’s suit alleges Armstrong’s cycling team violated its sponsorship contract by using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat in races. It alleges Armstrong then concealed the doping to keep getting paid, essentially ripping off the government by causing false claims to be submitted for payment. Under the False Claims Act, the government could get its money back times three if the case succeeds, nearly $100 million.
“This case seeks recovery from the individual most culpable for the fraud against USPS, who directed the fraud, and who gained the most from the fraud,” the government said in the filing.
The reason the government is making this argument now is because it hopes to prevent…