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Two of those fighting their corner in the combined Department of Justice/ Floyd Landis case against Lance Armstrong and his former associates have sought to bring their involvement to an end by offering payoffs to the United States government and Landis’ lawyer.
USA Today has today reported that Armstrong’s longtime agent Bill Stapleton and the former pro’s business partner Bart Knaggs, both of the Capital Sports and Entertainment agency, have offered a combined payment of half a million dollars to the government plus $100,000 to Landis’ attorney, Paul Scott.
This settlement offer is subject to acceptance by the US Government; if they agree to it, it would mean that Stapleton and Knaggs would be able to walk away from the legal case and not be part of what could potentially be a multi-million dollar payout down the line.
The suit begain in 2010 when Landis filed a Qui Tam whistleblower lawsuit against Armstrong and a number of others, on the grounds that they lied about doping use to the US Postal Service, the team’s sponsor.
Landis was a former rider on the team and was later suspended for two years and stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title. His 2010 confession about doping on the US Postal Service team helped reveal how the complex system worked and prompted a federal investigation. While this was inexplicably closed down, the reins were taken up by USADA.
Testimony from Landis and others helped unravel a conspiracy of silence which had shielded Armstrong and the team for many years.
The US Postal Service is a government agency and in 2013 the Department of Justice joined the case, adding firepower to Landis’ suit.
Under the False Claims Act, those taking the case could be liable to triple damages. With an sponsorship payment of more than $30 million, it means that Armstrong and others could potentially have to pay out $100 million.
Landis could be entitled to a share of this.
He appears to be in agreement with the offer, with his signature also appearing on the joint stipulation of dismissal.
However given the enormity of the amount which could be liable, it remains to be seen if the US government would accept Stapleton and Knaggs paying a fraction of what they might otherwise have to.
On Friday Judge Christopher Cooper set a deadline of January 30, by which time the US government must indicate if it will accept the settlement.
If it does, the government’s case would continue against Armstrong and Tailwind Sports, the company where Stapleton and Knaggs worked as executives.
The government gave an initial reaction in court documents. “The settlement agreement would require the dismissal of the action against the Settling Defendants, which, under the False Claims Act, requires the written consent of the Attorney General of the United States,” it stated.
“The United States will require time to review the proposed settlement agreement, acquire necessary additional information from the relator and Settling Defendants, evaluate whether the settlement terms are in the interest of the United States, inform the officials within the Department of Justice who have authority to act in the circumstances, and obtain the necessary authorization to state the Government’s position regarding the proposed settlement.”
The joint stipulation of dismissal can be read here.
Armstrong denied doping for many years but finally admitted longterm use of banned products in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013.
He is currently serving a lifetime ban, handed down by USADA and accepted by the UCI.