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Armstrong faces £78m US government lawsuit

ESPN staff
April 24, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Lance Armstrong admitted to doping during his seven Tour de France victories in an inteview with Oprah Winfrey © Getty Images
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The US government is seeking damages to the tune of £78m from Lance Armstrong and his associates, arguing that the disgraced cyclist had been "unjustly enriched" by doping and had defrauded a federal agency.

Armstrong, who has been stripped of the seven Tour de France titles won between 1999 and 2005, is named alongside former United States Postal Service (USPS) team manager Johan Bruyneel and management company Tailwind Sports as defendants in the suit.

In conjunction with whistle-blower Floyd Landis, a former team-mate of Armstrong who was stripped of the Yellow Jersey for doping at the 2006 Tour de France, the United States Justice Department is pursuing damages under the False Claims Act.

After being stripped of his titles and banned from WADA-sanctioned competition for life in 2012, Armstrong admitted to doping during all seven of his Tour de France triumphs in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013.

The lawsuit is pursuing the sponsorship money paid to Armstrong by USPS, the government-run title sponsor of the American's team for six of his seven Tour wins, on the grounds that Armstrong and Bruyneel had defrauded the US government by breaking the terms of their sponsorship contract.

According to court papers filed on Tuesday - the court deadline for action on Landis' 2010 complaint - USPS paid £26.2m to be the title sponsor of Armstrong's team, paying the 41-year-old a salary of £11.7m before bonuses.

"Defendants were unjustly enriched to the extent of the payments and other benefits they received from the USPS, either directly or indirectly," the complaint said.

The government is seeking triple losses of the sponsorship funds and has asked for a jury trial. As joint-plaintiff, Landis could receive up to 25% of any money recovered.

Armstrong's attorney Elliot Peters labelled the government suit "opportunistic" and "insincere".

"The US Postal Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship of the cycling team," Peters said. "Its own studies repeatedly and conclusively prove this. The USPS was never the victim of fraud.

"Lance Armstrong rode his heart out for the USPS team, and gave the brand tremendous exposure during the sponsorship years."

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