By Annys Shin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has decided to join a whistleblower lawsuit against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, a lawyer for Armstrong, Robert Luskin, said Friday.
The move, which could happen as early as Friday, increases the odds Armstrong may have to forfeit tens of millions of dollars paid out by team sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service.
The lawsuit, filed in 2010 by former teammate Floyd Landis on behalf of the Postal Service, alleges Armstrong defrauded the government by using taxpayer dollars to buy performance enhancing drugs used to win seven Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005. Armstrong has admitted to doping and that he bullied his teammates into using banned substances as well.
Until now, his admission has not resulted in serious financial consequences. He is estimated to be worth $125 million.
The Landis lawsuit, filed under the federal False Claims Act, poses a bigger threat to Armstrong’s wealth because it triples financial damages. The case has been kept under seal while the Justice Department decided whether to join it.
The government is choosing to intervene in the lawsuit after settlement negotiations with Armstrong stalled over the extent of damages the postal service suffered as a result of the alleged fraud, an Armstrong spokesman said.
Armstrong’s camp has argued that the postal service sustained little or no damage because it got a 300 percent return for its sponsorship of the pro cycling team. The postal service spent at least $31 million over four years to support the team.
“Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged,” according to a statement issued by his spokesman, Mark Fabiani. “The Postal Service’s own studies show that the it reaped big rewards from its sponsorship -- with benefits totaling more than $100 million.”
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had lobbied the Justice Department to join the lawsuit.
USADA officials had been in separate negotiations with Armstrong to get him to reveal more details of doping in the sport in exchange for a possible reduction in the length of time he is banned from competition. The agency has already banned him from the sport for life and stripped him of his Tour de France titles.
But on Wednesday, Armstrong refused for a second time to testify under oath before the USADA.
After denying doping accusations for years, Armstrong in January admitted to using performance enhancing drugs in a televised two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey.
In that interview, Armstrong said he and his teammates could not have won the Tour without relying on a mix of EPO, transfusions, human growth hormone and testosterone.
He told Winfrey that at the time he didn’t see it as cheating because doping was so widespread in cycling.
“I viewed it as a level playing field,” he said.
Today's Top Videos
A daily roundup of police news from around the region.
Pennsylvania woman charged with texting before fatal crash
NEW CASTLE — A western Pennsylvania woman has been charged with text-messaging while driving in connection with a crash earlier this month that killed a former volunteer fire chief.
One person killed, four hurt when van and taxi collide in Monroe County
TOBYHANNA — Authorities say a taxi driver was killed and four firefighters were hurt when the cab crashed into a fire police van in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Second person reported dead following Oklahoma tornado on Sunday
SHAWNEE, Okla. — Oklahoma’s state medical examiner’s office says a second person was killed by a tornado that leveled a central Oklahoma mobile home park.
Danville man seriously injured in Montour County motorcycle crash
DANVILLE - A Danville man is listed in critical condition today at Geisinger Medical Center following a motorcycle accident Sunday afternoon in Montour County.
Bucknell University graduates pleased with prospects
LEWISBURG - Ella Bailey was one proud mom Sunday, snapping pictures of her son Davon, a freshly minted Bucknell University graduate, getting him into different poses with his degree.
50 learn to be savvy shoppers
SUNBURY — Approximately 50 area residents gathered recently at the Sunbury Social Club to attend a Consumer University sponsored by AARP-Pennsylvania.
Scammer: This is not a scam
Residents from Danville to Beavertown are reporting they’ve been receiving “exciting news!” via postcards in their mailboxes.
“We are holding $100 in gift cards for YOU — good at Walmart and Target — your choice!” Just call a toll-free phone number and claim your reward.
BBs damage car on Route 15
An incident that began along Route 15 near Allenwood ended Wednesday at the Watsontown borough building, with police arresting one man for numerous charges, after they say he shot a BB gun at another man while threatening him.
Penn State report reviews women's status at university
STATE COLLEGE — Women at Penn State either haven't made progress or have lost ground when it comes to being represented in several key areas, including leadership positions and enrollment, according to report from a university commission.
State unemployment rate drops slightly in April
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate declined slightly last month, but remains above the national rate.
State attorney general says she opposes decriminalization of marijuana
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she opposes legislation to decriminalize marijuana.
Texas residents missing after tornadoes are found safe
GRANBURY, Texas — People who were missing in the wake of the destructive tornadoes in North Texas have been found safe, officials said Friday, but they didn’t indicate when residents of one hard-hit neighborhood will be allowed to return to survey damage to their homes.
Hartleton police chief faces felony theft and conspiracy counts
HARTLETON — Donald “Larry” Zerbe, Hartleton police chief for more than 30 years, was charged Thursday in Union County with theft and conspiracy for allegedly funneling traffic citation fines to a community playground fund.
Trial to be scheduled for Mifflinburg businessman
MIFFLINBURG — A Union County businessman waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday on charges that he spent $241,000 for personal debt and expenses instead of investing it in a storage facility partnership in West Buffalo Township as he told 10 clients he would.
Restaurant owner: 0.05 percent DUI level is too low
SELINSGROVE — The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tueday that states should shrink the standard from the current 0.08 percent blood alcohol content to 0.05 percent - and that doesn’t sit well to many Valley business owners.
Danville's Mill Street to be featured in new TV series
DANVILLE - For the premier episode of the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s “Discover Main Street PA” program, viewers will see the sights and sounds of Danville’s Mill Street.
- More News Headlines
- Today's Top Videos