Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong won a major victory against the United States government after settling a $100 million dollar lawsuit for pennies on the dollar. Armstrong agreed to pay $5 to settle the “false claims” allegations related to his use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) while a member of the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team.
“No one is above the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Chad A. Readler. “A competitor who intentionally uses illegal PEDs not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible. This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
Anti-doping officials and government prosecutors did their best to spin the settlement as some sort of victory. But the truth is that the government recognized its chances of success in federal court were slim. The government would have needed to prove that USPS lost millions of dollars as a result of Armstrong’s doping. This seemed unlikely since all evidence seem to suggest that corporate sponsors profit handsomely when sponsored athletes succeed (regardless of whether or not they doped).
The lawsuit originated with a bitter and disgruntled former teammate of Armstrong. Floyd Landis rode alongside Armstrong during many of his Tour de France victories. Landis eventually won the Tour de France himself in 2006 only to be stripped of the title and prize money after testing positive for exogenous testosterone use.
Landis’ anger simmered for the next five years as he watched Armstrong continue to compete and succeed as a pro cyclist and sports celebrity while claiming to be a “clean athlete”. Landis knew the truth because he used PEDs with Armstrong. But only Landis was ostracized from the sport and disgraced as a cheater.
Landis decided to take out his discontent by filing a “whistleblower” lawsuit against Armstrong in 2010. Landis used the False Claims Act as the pretense which gives whistleblowers the means to expose fraud related to the use of taxpayer dollars.
USPS paid over $30 million over a six-year period to sponsor the US Postal Cycling Team. Landis claimed that Armstrong violated the anti-doping provisions of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team sponsorship agreement by using erythropoietin (EPO), anabolic steroids (testosterone) and human growth hormone during and throughout the sponsorship.
Landis’ civil fraud lawsuit received a major boost when the federal government decided to join the suit. The government involvement significantly boosted the suit’s chances of success. It gave the lawsuit the full financial and legal resources of the U.S. government. And most importantly, it allows the plaintiffs to pursue treble damages
The U.S. government attempt to legally recover $100 million from Armstrong. Landis would have received $30 million as the reward for snitching on Armstrong. Landis’ dream of becoming a multi-millionaire and probably the richest snitch in professional sports history failed to materialize when Armstrong settled for $5 million.
Armstrong is currently estimated to have over $50 million in assets. Prior to Armstrong’s doping admission and USADA’s decision to ban him from sports competition for life, Armstrong’s estimated net worth was approximately $125 million. His descent as one of the world’s greatest athlete fell even further after all of his sponsors dropped him. He lost an estimated $100 million in sponsorship income over the ensuing years.
If the Landis-U.S. government lawsuit succeeded, Armstrong’s $50 million net worth would have effectively been wiped out. Any way you look at it, a $5 million settlement is still a victory for Armstrong.
“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong said in a statement. “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.”
Woodall, B.. (April 19, 2018). Lance Armstrong settles U.S. federal fraud case for $5 million: attorney
Armstrong settles doping fraud case for $5 million. Retrieved from reuters.com/article/us-cycling-armstrong/lance-armstrong-settles-u-s-federal-fraud-case-for-5-million-attorney-idUSKBN1HQ31W