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Lance Armstrong Lied, Cheated, Doped, but Does He Really Owe Damages?

Lance Armstrong parades along the Champs Elysees with his teammates after his sixth victory of the Tour de France in 2004
Lance Armstrong parades along the Champs Elysees with his teammates after his sixth victory of the Tour de France in 2004Photograph by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Given his two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey on January 17 and 18, aka #DOprah, one might have hoped we’d heard the last about Lance Armstrong for a while. Well, not so fast. While Armstrong’s televised confessions—that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and practices to secure his seven Tour de France wins, from 1999 to 2005; perjured himself in 2005 denying that he did so; intimidated those who doubted his innocence—had the feel of a deus ex machina from Greek tragedy, it was merely Act III of a five-act play. And from a legal point, it’s just getting good.

On Tuesday night, Department of Justice lawyers filed a complaint joining former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis’s 2010 whistleblower lawsuit, which alleges that Armstrong, his racing team manager, Johan Bruyneel, and their team owner, Tailwind Sports, defrauded the U.S. Postal Service, the lead sponsor of Armstrong’s victorious Tour de France race teams. From 1998 to 2004, the USPS paid Tailwind $40 million, and the Postal Service-sponsored team raced under its name, in its Lyrca colors, and emblazoned with its logo. ($17.9 million of that $40 million, the documents reveal, went to pay Armstrong’s salary over that period). That Justice would join the suit was expected, and as we’ve pointed out previously, because the suit falls under the False Claims Act, DOJ lawyers could seek up to $120 million from the defendants. Armstrong has denied liability in the past. His attorney Elliot Peters told the Associated Press that the government’s complaint is “opportunistic” and “insincere.”