Johan Bruyneel has been ordered to pay $1.2 million to the US government for his part in the doping programme that saw Lance Armstrong win six Tour de France titles while riding for the state-sponsored US Postal Team. The Belgian team manager, who is currently serving a 10-year ban from the sport, appears unlikely to pay the sum, given he resides outside the US.
Under the False Claims Act, the US government sought to recover the $32m it paid in sponsorship to the team, run under the company Tailwind Sports, between 1999 and 2004, after Armstrong confessed in 2013 to doping during each of his Tour de France victories.
Bruyneel, the government claimed, had directly received $1,228,700 in salary and bonuses through Tailwind over the course of the sponsorship and was "unjustly enriched by his fraud".
Bruyneel and Tailwind, which no longer exists, stopped responding to the lawsuit in 2014, four years after it was opened. Bruyneel withdrew his representatives, which the US government interpreted as an admission to its complaints by default. On Wednesday, a District of Columbia judge ruled that Bruyneel would have to pay back the full $1,228,700.
"Here, the government has substantiated that Bruyneel unjustly received $1,228,700 in benefits," said Judge Christopher Cooper, according to USA Today. "The Court will thus enter judgment for the government against Bruyneel on its unjust enrichment claim and award it $1,228,700 in restitution."
In addition to that sum, Bruyneel was also ordered to pay $369,000 in civil penalties for the 41 claims for payment made by Tailwind. Under the False Claims Act, each claim carries a maximum fine of $11,000, but the judge made a ruling of $9,000 per claim.
"The Court by no means sanctions the defaulting defendants' conduct," said Cooper, "but the circumstances here do not rise to the degree warranting the maximum level of civil penalties."
It is unclear, however, if Bruyneel will ever pay up. Linda Silberman, a law professor at New York University, told USA Today earlier this year that it would be unlikely that a "default judgment like this would be enforced overseas".
Bruyneel resides in Europe and so the judgement, in theory, could only be enforced against assets he has - or brings into - the US.
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