Cyclist Lance Armstrong Agrees to Pay $5 Million to Settle False Claims Allegations Related to his Violations of his USPS Sponsorship Agreement
The government efforts to prosecute people who defraud its agencies rarely involve the United States Postal Service. However, the government has recently proven that it will aggressively pursue even famous individuals who are accused of defrauding any of its agencies. This was the case last month when it announced that former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong has agreed to pay the government $5 million to settle claims that his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs resulted in the submission of false claims for sponsorship payments to the U.S. Postal Service. Armstrong’s team won the prestigious Tour de France six of seven years that it competed. “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.”
Armstrong’s sponsorship deal with the USPS required his team to follow the rules of cycling’s government bodies which included a ban against performance enhancing drugs. Between 1999 and 2004, Armstrong was the pilot rider on his team leading it to win the Tour de France, six consecutive times. “The Postal Service has strongly supported the Department of Justice’s intervention and pursuit of this case, as it always has been our position that Lance Armstrong misled the Postal Service,” said Thomas J. Marshall, U.S. Postal Service General Counsel and Executive Vice President. “This matter has now been resolved in a manner that imposes consequences for that wrongful action. With this case, as in all other instances, the Postal Service vigorously defends our brand and our position as a trusted government institution.”
Armstrong and his team mates were eventually stripped of their titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (“USADA”) found that they had engaged in a doping program design to help Armstrong win the Tour de France. Armstrong admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey. “The U.S. Postal Service manages approximately 30,000 contract actions and spends more than $13 billion on contracted supplies and services each fiscal year,” said Scott Pierce, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “The Office of Inspector General supports the Postal Service by aggressively investigating allegations of misconduct within the contracting process. In this instance, we worked hand-in-hand with the Civil Division, the United States Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Postal Service Office of the General Counsel. Today’s result will have a positive impact on the entire contracting process.”
The allegations brought against Armstrong originated from a whistleblower complaint that was filed by Floyd Landis, a former teammate. Landis admitted that he too had used performance enhancing drugs as a member of the USPS-sponsored team. Landis’ complaint was filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. These provisions permit private citizens to file for false claims with or without a qui tam lawyer and to share in any recovery. Whistleblower lawyers are skilled in all areas of the False Claims Act. Landis will receive $1.1 million as his share of the settlement.