A District of Columbia District Court has today denied Lance Armstrong's legal team a motion to negate any damages caused to the US Postal Service (USPS) under the US Federal Government's False Claims Act (FCA) suit against him and former team owners Tailwind Sports, and opened the way for the case to proceed to a jury trial.
The government alleges that Armstrong defrauded the USPS by "actively concealing the team's violations of the agreements' anti-doping provisions," under its sponsorship contract.
Armstrong's attorneys have long asserted that the government suffered no damage because the USPS sponsorship was more valuable than the total sponsorship package, based on advertising impressions during his Tour de France victories while riding for the team.
But the government disputed these assertions, providing expert estimates of 1.5 billion negative media impressions "connecting Mr. Armstrong's doping scandal to the USPS" in the four years after Landis brought the suit. "Determination of damages must therefore be left to a jury," U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper decided.
The FCA case was brought in 2010 by Armstrong's former teammate Floyd Landis. Armstrong was banned by USADA for life for doping and conspiracy charges in 2012 confessed to doping on the Oprah Winfrey television show the next year, after which the Federal government joined the case, which is now moving toward trial.
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The District Court granted the government's motion to set the amount in question at $32,267,279, the total of the payment invoices that team owners Tailwind Sports submitted to USPS. A jury could decide Armstrong and Tailwind should pay damages as much as three times that amount, or $96,801,837.
"While the total cost of the Postal Service sponsorship from 1995 to 2004 was over $42 million, the government's claims are based on the invoices submitted within FCA's statute of limitations," the ruling noted.
The courts also left it for the jury to decide if Armstrong and Tailwind engaged in 'fraudulent inducement' by covering up the team's doping activities when negotiating a renewal of USPS sponsorship in 2000. In a conversation with Postmaster General William Henderson prior to signing the renewal, Hendersen testified that "Lance railed . . . about the French and their bullshit charges, and [felt] that they were just out [to get him] because ... an American was winning the tour – their Tour de France."
The court decided to deny summary judgement, "Because a reasonable juror could conclude that USPS might have declined to sign the 2000 Sponsorship Agreement had Armstrong not made the statements he did."