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Judge in Armstrong case sets ground rules for 2018 'whistleblower' trial

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Lance Armstrong looks on upon his arrival in Rodez, southwest France, after riding a stage of The Tour De France for a leukaemia charity

Lance Armstrong looks on upon his arrival in Rodez, southwest France, after riding a stage of The Tour De France for a leukaemia charity
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Floyd Landis dumped dozens of bottles of water on his head to cope with searing heat on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour.

Floyd Landis dumped dozens of bottles of water on his head to cope with searing heat on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Tom Boonen and Lance Armstrong in Nancy, France 2005

Tom Boonen and Lance Armstrong in Nancy, France 2005 (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lance Armstrong looks on upon his arrival in Rodez, southwest France, after riding a stage of The Tour De France for a leukaemia charity

Lance Armstrong looks on upon his arrival in Rodez, southwest France, after riding a stage of The Tour De France for a leukaemia charity
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Astana in 2009 when Lance Armstrong returned from retirement

Astana in 2009 when Lance Armstrong returned from retirement (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The attorneys for both Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis are calling a judge's limits on the upcoming civil trial a win for their respective sides. US District Judge Christopher Cooper set some ground rules for the 2018 case, which will decide a $100 million question: did Armstrong defraud the US Postal Service by doping?

Landis originally started the suit in 2010 under the False Claims Act which allows citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to file action on its behalf, and if successful, gain from 15-25 per cent of any damages awarded. The government joined the case in 2013 after Armstrong confessed to doping.

The legal arguments boiled down to whether or not the value of the US Postal Service sponsorship outstripped the damage done by the scandal.

The judge gave Armstrong's attorneys satisfaction by preventing government witnesses from testifying that the US Postal Service gained zero benefit from its sponsorship. They have long argued that the agency gained more value in marketing exposure than the total sponsorship package.

Armstrong's witnesses can also testify that doping was so rampant in cycling at the time that the US Postal Service should have known or knew he was cheating and sponsored the team anyhow. They can also question Landis' credibility.

"We think it's great. The court says very clearly the government cannot pursue that the sponsorship had no value because of team doping. They have to prove damages to Postal Service after 2013 and Lance's confession," Armstrong attorney Elliot Peters said, according to the Associated Press.

The rules will, however, limit how Armstrong's attorneys can use reports commissioned by the US Postal Service into the value of its sponsorship in terms of global exposure. Those reports put the value of the package above the $100 million sponsorship, but most, according to the AP, have been ruled inadmissible. Armstrong's side can testify that the US Postal Service accepted the reports' conclusions.

The judge will also allow the government experts to demonstrate whether or not the damages to the Postal Service as a result of the doping scandal exceeded the amount of its sponsorship, and call Betsy Andreu and Greg LeMond as witnesses. Both were some of the first to speak out about Armstrong's doping. The government will also be allowed to bring up Armstrong's other sponsorships such as those with Nike and Trek, which were hastily dropped when he confessed.

"The rulings largely fall our way," said Paul D. Scott, the lawyer for Landis who filed the suit. "The court left open a clear path for the government and Landis to prove up damages arising from negative publicity associated with the disclosure of Armstrong's doping and concealment."

The trial is due to take place next year on May 7.