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Justice Department joins lawsuit against Lance Armstrong

The U.S. will be part of the whistle-blower suit first filed by cyclist Floyd Landis. The Justice Department seeks millions he received from former sponsor the Postal Service.

February 22, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • The U.S. Justice Department has joined a lawsuit filed by former cyclist Floyd Landis against Lance Armstrong.
The U.S. Justice Department has joined a lawsuit filed by former cyclist… (Paolo Coccopaola / Getty…)

In the same week that Lance Armstrong announced that he would not cooperate with the anti-doping agency that uncovered the deception he used to win seven Tour de France titles, the Justice Department on Friday opted to press him for the millions he took from former sponsor the U.S. Postal Service.

By joining a whistle-blower lawsuit first filed by Armstrong's former cycling teammate Floyd Landis, the Justice Department alleges Armstrong and teammates violated sponsor agreements by using banned substances and methods, including blood doping, testosterone and human growth hormone.

"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," said U.S. Atty. Ronald Machen, 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,'" Machen said.

Armstrong's legal team and the government have worked this year to strike a settlement the banned cyclist could pay, but the sides are reportedly tens of millions of dollars apart.

"Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged," Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin said in a statement emailed to The Times. "The Postal Service's own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100 million."

Armstrong's side also contends the statute of limitations applies, and that only the final Postal Service payment occurred during that window of time.

Another Armstrong argument that could turn interesting as the case proceeds is that there were floods of media reports that cycling was fraught with doping as the sponsorship agreements were struck.

A formal Justice Department complaint will be filed within 60 days.

Twitter: @latimespugmire

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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