The Justice Department joined a lawsuit on Friday against Lance Armstrong alleging that he concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauded his sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service, according to The Associated Press.
During the years when Armstrong won six consecutive Tour de France titles, he was the lead rider for a professional cycling team run by Tailwind Sports Corp., and was sponsored by the postal service. The lawsuit claims that riders on the team, including Armstrong, violated agreements they had made with the postal service and regularly used banned substances.
“Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules — including the rules against doping,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said, whose office is handling the case. “The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’”
The Justice Department cited Armstrong’s longtime concealment of his illegal activities as one of their main reasons for joining the case, stating the lies can be traced back to 1998.
“The U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team was run as a fraudulent enterprise and individuals both inside and outside of sport aided and abetted this scheme and profited greatly,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “USADA applauds today’s action by the U.S. Department of Justice which holds promise for returning the many millions of federal dollars in ill-gotten gains generated by this fraud.”
However, the degree to which Armstrong “defrauded” his sponsor, if at all, continues to create disagreements between the two sides. An Armstrong lawyer, Robert Luskin, said negotiations with the government failed because “we disagree about whether the postal service was damaged.”
“The postal service’s own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100 million,” Luskin said.
While studies show that the U.S. Postal Service saw an increase in profits in brand exposure when they sponsored Armstrong, the postal service may be able to use all of the negative attention the tarnished champion is now receiving in their favor, saying it is now hurting their reputation.