US Justice Department joining fraud suit against Lance Armstrong

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02/23/2013| 0 comments
by AP and Roadcycling.com
Lance Armstrong Fotoreporter Sirotti

US Justice Department joining fraud suit against Lance Armstrong

The Justice Department joined a lawsuit Friday against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong that alleges the former seven-time Tour de France champion concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauded his longtime sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service.

with USADA's offer, the person said.

Commenting Wednesday on Armstrong's refusal to talk, Tygart said that, "over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so."

If the Justice Department ends up taking the Landis whistle-blower case all the way to trial, a key issue is likely to be whether the U.S. Postal Service -- the Armstrong team's sponsor -- suffered financial harm from the drug scandal.

The government must prove not only that the postal service was defrauded, but that it was damaged somehow.

Studies done for the postal service conclude the agency reaped at least US$139 million in worldwide brand exposure in four years -- US$35 million to US$40 million for sponsoring the Armstrong team in 2001; US$38 million to US$42 million in 2002; US$31 million in 2003; and US$34.6 million in 2004.

The government could counter that all of the recent controversy tarnishes the whole sponsorship and has damaged the postal service.

Armstrong's last sponsor for his final two Tours de France participations and seasons was RadioShack, in 2009 and 2010. Some experts are claiming Armstrong was doped in 2009 and 2010 as well.

The government has a potentially strong weapon on its side: An argument could be made that until recent months there was an active, ongoing conspiracy to cover up Armstrong's alleged fraud. If the case ever goes to trial, that argument could persuade a judge to allow in a huge amount of evidence on Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs dating back to the 1990s -- evidence that would be barred from the government's court case as too old if there were no extended conspiracy.

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