WASHINGTON (CN) - The Justice Department joined a complaint Friday originally filed under seal by cyclist Floyd Landis against his disgraced teammate Lance Armstrong.
Landis and the government say Armstrong's admitted use of banned performance-enhancing drugs defrauded the cycling team's federal sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service.
They sued Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong's management company Tailwind Sports.
The 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.
Landis says Bruyneel knew that Armstrong and other team members were using the banned drugs, and that the defendants knowingly flouted the USPS agreements.
The cyclist filed his federal complaint under seal with the District Court for the District of Columbia in June 2010. With the government's announcement Friday that it will intervene on behalf of Landis, U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins unsealed the case and Landis filed and amended 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 recently 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. It plans to file a formal complaint within 60 days.
"Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules - including the rules against doping," U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. said in a statement. "The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as 'the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.' This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises. In today's economic climate, the U.S. Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured."
Postal Service Inspector General David Williams added that public confidence is integral for the Postal Service to work with different contractors and subcontractors.
"When that public trust is compromised, as occurred in this case, the Office of Inspector General will fully investigate," Williams said in a statement
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.