Lance Armstrong loses bid to halt $100 million lawsuit

Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned from competition

A federal judge gave the green light Monday for a U.S. government lawsuit that accuses the seven-time Tour de France champion of fraudulently accepting millions of dollars in sponsorship money from the U.S. Postal Service, court papers show.

In a February 13 decision, U.S. District Judge Christopher R. "Casey" Cooper declared that the issue of damages "must ... be left to a jury".

The Justice Department alleges in the lawsuit, made under the False Claims Act, that Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France victor, defrauded the government by doping while sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.

The US Postal Service, who sponsored Armstrong's team from 2000 to 2004, claimed it would not have done so if it had known the team was using banned substances and methods to win seven consecutive Tours de France, and alleged brand and reputational damage. He was stripped of those titles and banned from competition.

Armstrong has argued that the government's legal claims are deficient on several grounds, among them that the Postal Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship of the cycling team.

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The premise of the case is that Armstrong and the Tailwind Sports management company that owned the US Postal team, defrauded the government out of funds as Armstrong and other members of the team used performance-enhancing drugs.

He also said it was up to jurors to decide if the government suffered any damages from the fallout surrounding Armstrong's confessed doping. "(But) disregarding any benefits USPS received from the sponsorship could bestow the government with an undeserved windfall.

Lance Armstrong faces the prospect of "financial ruin" after he failed to block a $100m (£80m) lawsuit brought by the USA government against him and his former team. The money could be tripled to just shy of $100 million under the False Claims Act.

The cancer survivor was stripped of his seven tour victories after the United States anti-doping agency uncovered a clandestine and sophisticated doping programme.

The government has calculated damages at three times this amount.

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U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper's ruling to send the case to trial stresses that the damages to USPS's public image need to be decided by a jury of the public.

Eliot Peters, an attorney for Armstrong, did not respond to a request for comment.

"So the government may now proceed to a trial that, as a practical matter, it can not win", he said.

Of course, Landis' attorney Paul D. Scott said he was "delighted" to see the case move toward trial.

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