Lance Armstrong’s legal team has moved that the US governments’ case against the rider and his former team should be dismissed because the US Postal Service got value from its sponsorship of Armstrong, and did not react to accusations of doping against him and the team at the time. Armstrong’s lawyers also argue that the statute of limitations on the offences has expired.
The Justice Department’s case centres on the accusation that Armstrong was “unjustly enriched” by using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.
After years of denying drug use, Armstrong confessed in January to using steroids, blood manipulation and other banned methods.
In a motion submitted to the US District Court in Washington, Armstrong’s lawyers said the Postal Service got what it expected from the deal: tens of millions of dollars’ worth of publicity; exposure to more than 30 million spectators at international cycling events; and hundreds of hours of television coverage.
Everyone knew pro cyclists doped
Armstrong’s lawyers effectively argue that at the time, everyone knew professional cycling was rife with drug use and it was unreasonable to expect Armstrong’s team to be any different. In particular, they point to reports that the French authorities were looking into suspicions of doping by the team, which emerged in the weeks before the US Postal Service renewed the team’s sponsorship in 2000.
“Although the government now pretends to be aggrieved by these allegations, its actions at the time are far more telling,” says the motion
“Did it suspend the team pending an investigation? Did it refer the matter to its phalanx of lawyers and investigators at the Department of Justice for review? It did not.
“Rather than exercise its right to terminate the sponsorship agreement, it instead renewed its contract to sponsor the team.
“The rationale behind the government’s decision is obvious. Armstrong had recently won the 2000 Tour de France. The government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure, and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor. It got exactly what it bargained for.
“That was more than a decade ago. It is now far too late for the government to revisit its choice to reap the benefits of sponsorship rather than investigate allegations of doping.”
The lawsuit gathered momentum earlier this year when the Justice Department joined former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis’ whistle-blower lawsuit against Armstrong. Under the United States’ False Claims Act, whistle-blowers can share with the government in any recovery of money based upon their disclosures.
The lawsuit is based on the team’s contractual obligation that its riders would follow the rules of cycling, and the team’s repeated reassurances to the Postal Service that its riders were not doping.
The Postal Service funded Armstrong’s team to the tune of about $40 million between 1998 and 2004. Armstrong himself trousered about $18 million, according to the government’s complaint. If he loses, Armstrong faces triple damages that are determined at trial.
Gathering storm of lawsuits
Armstrong is currently fighting several lawsuits involving his career as a professional cyclist. Earlier this month a Texas judge refused his motion to dismiss a case brought by Acceptance Insurance, which paid his win bonuses for the 199-2001 Tour de France.
Armstrong is also being sued by SCA Promotions, which guaranteed his later Tour de France bonuses, and the Sunday Times, which settled a libel case out of court with Armstrong in 2006.
Armstrong’s total liability if all the suits find against him is estimated at $135 million dollars. His personal net worth is estimated at $125 million.
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