Armstrong to pay $6.6m to US govt in $131m fraud case

Lance Armstrong also agreed to pay US$1.65m to cover the legal costs of whistleblower Floyd Landis.
Lance Armstrong also agreed to pay US$1.65m to cover the legal costs of whistleblower Floyd Landis.

WASHINGTON • Former cycling superstar Lance Armstrong will pay US$5 million (S$6.6 million) to the US government to settle a fraud lawsuit that contended he owed US$100 million to taxpayers for doping while competing for a cycling team sponsored by the US Postal Service.

The settlement was reached in an agreement announced on Thursday with the US Justice Department.

Armstrong also agreed to pay US$1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a teammate and the whistleblower in the case, according to lawyers in the case.

The agreement was struck before the scheduled May 7 start of a trial over the civil case.

Armstrong, who in 2012 was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and barred for life from Olympic sports, expressed delight at resolving the final lawsuit about his admission of doping.

"I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life," the 46-year-old said in a statement.

"I'm looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life - my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition."

The Postal Service paid Armstrong's team US$32.3 million between 2000 and 2004 to ride under the service's blue and white express delivery logo.

Shortly after Armstrong's televised admission in 2013 that he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs for years, the Justice Department joined the whistleblower suit brought by Landis.

They sought repayment of sponsorship fees plus damages totalling US$100 million.

The Justice Department in a statement said the settlement showed "no one is above the law", including Armstrong.

"A competitor who intentionally uses illegal (performance-enhancing drugs) not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible," said the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division, Chad Readler.

Landis said the court battle "has been a difficult ordeal and public opinion was not always on my side, but it was the right thing to do, and I am hopeful that some positive changes for cycling and sport in general will be the result".

The government alleged that Armstrong's doping and violation of the rules of his sport nullified his value to the Postal Service brand.

Without a deal, Armstrong and his critics risked an ugly trial that could have stretched for weeks in Washington, spotlighted rampant doping in cycling and brought in dozens of figures who had been listed as possible witnesses.

The witnesses include former three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond, Postal Service riders George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Jonathan Vaughters and Levi Leipheimer.

Also called were former team-mate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy Andreu.

The Andreus have contended that when Armstrong was recovering from brain cancer surgery in 1996, he admitted to his doctor in their presence that he used EPO, growth hormones and steroids.

Armstrong has recently listed his home in Austin, Texas, for sale for US$7.5 million.

He has slowly tried to regain public trust and return to the sports world as a commentator, but the lawsuit with its potential US$100 million penalty posed a debilitating financial blow.

He has estimated he lost US$100 million by admitting to doping, as long-time sponsors and brands, including Nike, dropped him.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Armstrong to pay $6.6m to US govt in $131m fraud case'. Print Edition | Subscribe