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Feds Bear Down on Lance Armstrong for Fraud

WASHINGTON (CN) - Lance Armstrong defrauded the federal agency that sponsored his cycling team by lying about his steroid use, the U.S. government claims in Federal Court.

The government filed its complaint Tuesday, almost exactly two months after it joined the lawsuit originally filed under seal by Armstrong's former teammate, Floyd Landis.

They seek treble damages and civil penalties pursuant to the False Claims Act from Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong's management company Tailwind Sports. If successful, Landis is entitled to 30 percent of any recovery as a whistle-blower.

The U.S. Postal Service sponsored Tailwind's professional cycling team from 1996 through 2004. Lance Armstrong was the lead rider on the team, winning six consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2004.

Governing bodies of cycling prohibit the use of certain performance-enhancing substances and methods, and the Postal Service allegedly paid $31 million in sponsorship fees between 2001 and 2004 alone.

Bruyneel allegedly knew that Armstrong and other team members were using the banned drugs, and even "encouraged" this behavior "by providing the riders with doping products and instructing them on when and where to meet doctors for illicit treatments," according to the government's new complaint.

Drug abuse in the cycling world came to light with the Oct. 10, 2012, report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which concluded that Armstrong used banned performance enhancing substances starting in at least 1998 and continuing throughout his professional career. That report said Armstrong had pressured and helped his teammates to engage in similar conduct.

The agency ultimately disqualified all of Armstrong's competitive results since Aug. 1, 1998, including his seven Tour de France victories, and banned him from the sport for life.

Though Armstrong vehemently denied the allegations against him for months, he eventually came clean in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong admitted that he used banned substances and methods throughout his career, starting in the mid-1990s and coinciding with each of his seven Tour de France victories. Six of those victories were accomplished in Armstrong's capacity as a USPS rider.

In the interview, Armstrong also explained how he carefully timed his use of the banned substances to avoided detection by anti-doping authorities.

Landis rode with Armstrong on the USPS sponsored team from 2002 through 2004. Like Armstrong, the USADA stripped Landis of his 2006 Tour de France victory after his urine tested positive for unnatural testosterone. He was banned from cycling for two years.

His lawsuit also named as defendants: Montgomery Sports; Capital Sports & Entertainment Holdings; Thomas Weisel; William Stapleton; Barton Knaggs and Ross Investments.

The government joined the lawsuit only as to the allegations against Armstrong, Bruyneel and Tailwind.

In addition to violations of the False Claims Act, the government alleges fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract.

Nixon Peabody attorney Robert Chandler represents the government with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Darrell Valdez and Mercedeh Momeni.

Landis is represented by Jon Linden Praed with the Internet Law Group in Arlington, Va.; Lani Anne Remick the Law Offices of Paul D. Scott in San Francisco; and Paul Scott of the same firm.

U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins is presiding over the case.

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