The False Claims Act and Lance Armstrong
The Lance Armstrong doping scandal is now a familiar story to most. However, after winning a stunning seven Tour de France victories, Armstrong now finds himself locked in an intense legal battle facing violations under the False Claims Act as well as the familiar public relations battle.
For years, Armstrong steadfastly and repeatedly denied rumors that he used illegal performance enhancing drugs, also known as “doping,” during any of his Tour de France competitions. In fact, the denials were so frequent and intense that the internet is full of video clips and articles chronicling his denial.
Unfortunately for Armstrong, former teammate and fellow doper Floyd Landis blew the whistle. Not only did Armstrong lie about his use of illegal performance enhancing drugs, doing so defrauded the U.S. Postal Service, violating the False Claims Act (FCA).
Originally, the False Claims Act was created during the Civil War to root out and prevent contractors taking advantage of the chaotic time and bilking the government out of money. For example, during the war, it was fairly common for contractors to sell the armies equipment and horses they knew were faulty and charge the government regardless. Today, the False Claims Act applies to any sort of fraud in which money is wrongfully taken from the government.
How does this apply to Lance Armstrong? During his tenure in the Tour de France, the U.S. Postal Service, a government agency, sponsored Armstrong and his cycling team, giving them millions of dollars. Part of the sponsorship deal included playing by the rules, which includes not doping. According to Landis’ qui tam case, Armstrong took over $30 million in sponsorship money while knowingly violating the sponsorship agreement by doping.
Recently, Armstrong’s attorneys filed a Motion to Dismiss the case against their client and his co-defendants. The defense attorneys argued that:
- The case should be thrown out because too much time has passed. The typical statute of limitations for a False Claims Act case is either 6 years after the date of violation or within 3 years of the date when the facts of the matter should have been reasonably known. However, the law clearly states a case cannot be filed more than 10 years after the violation. The case covers 1998-2004, making it an almost 10 year old accusation.
- The government took no steps to stop what was then rumored doping. According to the defense attorneys, the government, specifically the U.S. Postal Service, should have known about the illegal activity but decided not to because of the PR benefits the agency was getting from the tie to one of the greatest American cyclists.
- Finally, Armstrong’s attorneys argue that the Postal Service was in no way damaged by Armstrong’s doping. In fact, as mentioned above, the agency received a benefit, getting millions of dollars worth of publicity.
A few weeks ago, the judge presiding over the case denied Armstrong’s Motion to Dismiss. The False Claims Act case will not be thrown out and will proceed.
If you have information about a situation in which a person, group, or corporation is knowingly defrauding the U.S. government, please contact us online or call us at 855-379-0385. All consultations are completely confidential and free. Our qui tam team of experienced attorneys and staff are here not only to help the federal government recover money wrongfully taken, we are to help you understand your role and rights.