The US Postal service spent nearly $32 million in the sponsorship of Lance Armstrong's team during the 2001-2004 seasons, a new report by ESPN revealed.
Previously kept secret, the financial details of the contract between the government agency and Tailwind Sports, the team's management company, were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The details emerge as the team's activities during those years come under scrutiny by a federal grand jury, which has been hearing testimony of former US Postal team members. The hearings are part of a federal investigation, led by the Food and Drug Administration's Jeff Novitzky, which has been focused on allegations made by Floyd Landis into widespread doping activities on the team. The American was a member of the US Postal squad from 2002 to 2004.
ESPN also confirmed that Landis has filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit based upon the argument that doping on the team constituted a fraudulent use of government funds. Landis stands to gain a portion of any damages recovered should the lawsuit succeed.
Armstrong and team manager Johan Bruyneel have repeatedly denied any doping within the team, and indeed were bound by a "moral turpitude and drug clause" which was instituted when the contract was renewed for four years in 2000.
The clause was added after a French television station aired footage of supposed US Postal staff disposing of medical waste at the 2000 Tour de France, including a product called Actovegin. An investigation by French officials was closed after two years.
The unwanted attention of doping allegations led the US Postal Service to hire a PR firm to handle the team's affairs, at the cost of $50,000 which was taken from the team's operating budget.
An excerpt from the contract pertaining to doping read:
"The Company represents that each rider on the Team has a morals turpitude and drug clause that allows the Company to suspend or terminate the rider for cause which shall include items such as (1) conviction of a felony; (2) acts that require the Team to suspend or terminate the rider under the applicable rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the Federation Interationale du Cyclisme Professionel; the United States Professional Cycling Federation, Inc; the International Olympic committee; the International Amateur Cycling Federation; the United States Cycling Federation and all other applicable governing organizations; (3) failure to pass drug or medical tests; (4) inappropriate drug conduct prejudicial to the Team, or the Postal Service, which is in violation of the Team rules or commonly accepted standards of morality; and (5) gross neglect of the rider's duty."