Case closed: Lance Armstrong settles federal lawsuit for $5M
Lance Armstrong will pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming that he defrauded the federal government by using performance-enhancing drugs as a member of the United States Postal Service cycling team, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The settlement ends years of legal disputes between Armstrong and the U.S. government over whether the U.S. Postal Service — an independent agency of the United States federal government — had been damaged by Armstrong’s doping, which he confessed to in January 2013, five months after he’d received a lifetime ban and been stripped of his Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The case began in 2010 as a Qui Tam lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Floyd Landis, Armstrong’s former teammate. Landis’ lawsuit alleged that the team’s doping constituted defrauding the federal government. Armstrong was not only the leader of the team but also had ownership stake. Armstrong’s business partners Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs settled with the U.S. government for $158,000 in 2017 after being named in the same suit.
The government joined the lawsuit after Armstrong’s confession in 2013, with the Postal Service claiming it would not have sponsored the team if it had known Armstrong was doping. Armstrong’s defense stated that the Postal Service had to have known about the doping, and that it benefitted far beyond its $32 million sponsorship.
The settlement averted a trial scheduled to begin with jury selection on May 7 in Federal District Court in Washington D.C.
“We’ve had exactly the same view of this case forever, which was that it was a bogus case because the Postal Service was never harmed,” Elliot Peters, Armstrong’s lead lawyer, told the New York Times. Peters added that the Postal Service had previously boasted that sponsoring Armstrong’s cycling team for $32 million was a marketing boon.
Under the rules of the False Claims Act, a defendant found guilty could be liable for treble damages; in Armstrong’s case, that meant nearly $100 million — roughly equal to the entire fortune he netted as a cancer survivor turned seven-time Tour de France champion.
Instead, Armstrong has settled for just $5 million.
“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong said in a press release. “I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life – my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”
Landis, who admitted to doping during his racing career and was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title, will receive $1.1 million of the government’s $5 million, Peters told the New York Times.
Landis did not immediately return requests for comment.
In addition to the $5 million settlement, Armstrong will pay $1.65 million to cover Landis’s legal costs, Peters said.
“The Postal Service and Landis had sought $100 million in damages from Lance, but in light of several significant court rulings rejecting and limiting the plaintiffs’ damages theories, the case today settled for $5 million, plus an additional amount to pay attorneys’ fees to Landis’s lawyer,” Peters said in a statement. “Lance is delighted to put this behind him.”
“I am particularly glad to have made peace with the Postal Service,” Armstrong said. “While I believe that their lawsuit against me was without merit and unfair, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes, and make amends wherever possible. I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”