A federal judge has set limits on evidence and testimony that will be allowed in the U.S. government’s upcoming $100 million civil fraud trial against Lance Armstrong.
The federal government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team from 2000 to 2004. Armstrong later confessed to using steroids or other banned performance-enhancing drugs and methods and was stripped of his winnings from that time period. The government has said that it would not have paid to sponsor Armstrong’s team if it had known that the team was using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat in races.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2010 by Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong’s. Landis is also a confessed doper, but is working with the government as a whistleblower. The federal government joined the suit in 2013.
Claims at Issue
Armstrong has already admitted to use of the drugs, which was in violation of his team’s sponsorship contract, so that is not at issue. The issues are whether there were false claims and whether the Postal Service was damaged by Armstrong’s conduct. The government claims that Armstrong lied about the doping to continue to get paid and that he caused false claims to be submitted to the government for payment. Under the False Claims Act, the government can recover triple, which would total almost $100 million.
Armstrong’s attorneys argue that Armstrong did not cause false claims to be submitted to the government and that the Postal Service was not damaged by the doping. They claim that the Postal Service received the benefit of the bargain, including receiving international exposure when Armstrong won the Tour de France wearing a USPS jersey.
Armstrong will face trial in 2018. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper has set ground rules for the upcoming trial that limit evidence and expert witness testimony. The ruling prevents the government’s expert witnesses from testifying that the Postal Service received no financial benefit from its sponsorship; however, they will be allowed to testify as to whether the Postal Service was damaged beyond the value of the original sponsorship.
Armstrong’s experts will be allowed to testify about the rampant use of doping in cycling during that time period, which would open up a defense that the government knew or should have known that Armstrong’s team was doping and chose to sponsor them anyway.
Armstrong’s attorney, Elliot Peters, said, “We think it’s great. The court says very clearly the government cannot pursue that the sponsorship had no value because of team doping. They have to prove damages to the Postal Service after 2013 and Lance’s confession.”
Attorney for Landis, Paul D. Scott, also commented on the ruling: “The rulings largely fall our way. . . . The court left open a clear path for the government and Landis to prove up damages arising from negative publicity associated with the disclosure of Armstrong’s doping and concealment.”