The Feds May Go After Lance, Again

Staff Writer
Government considers joining ex-teammate's whistleblower lawsuit

After being cleared of criminal Federal doping allegations last February—before the USADA's Reasoned Decision, before Tyler Hamilton’s tell-all book and before being stripped of his seven Tour titles—Lance Armstrong probably thought the government had let him completetly off the hook. But now, the U.S. Justice Department is considering joining up with Armstrong’s ex-teammate Floyd Landis, who has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Texan accusing him of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service by doping, an act in violation of the team contract. If it takes on the case, the government can essentially reclaim the suit from Landis, putting him out of the picture, save for a 30 percent cut of whatever money the feds recover, which could end up being as much as triple the amount of the sponsorship.  

How’d it all start? Back in the fall of 2010, Lance was subpoenaed by the United States Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General. Armstrong didn’t comply, initially trying to kill the court order and then announcing his intention to evade it by invoking his Fifth Amendment right (that is, the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination). Eventually, the civil division of the Justice Department asked the U.S. District Court in DC to intervene, and, as the case was no longer a criminal one, Armstrong complied with the subpoena—while his lawyer, John Keker, scrambled to keep the case under wraps. If the public had found out that Armstrong “intended to assert his Fifth Amendment rights,” he said, it would “further damage Mr. Armstrong’s reputation.”

The Justice Department wouldn’t stand for a veiled case, though, and the records became public last week. "The sealing of judicial records is not appropriate if it is done merely to protect parties from embarrassment," it said.

The same Justice Department lawyers who struggled to enforce the subpoena are currently also representing the feds in deciding whether or not to get involved in Armstrong’s seemingly never-ending fall from grace.