Lance Armstrong’s Ex-Team Manager Must Forfeit $1.2M

WASHINGTON (CN) – Drawing an eight-year legal battle to a close, a federal judge ordered the manager of Tailwind Sports to forfeit $1.2 million for his role in concealing Lance Armstrong’s career-long doping habit.

Overall leader Lance Armstrong, right, of Austin, Texas, follows compatriot and teammate Floyd Landis, left, in the ascent of the La Croix Fry pass during the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Bourg-d’Oisans and Le Grand Bornand, French Alps, on July 24, 2004. Armstrong reached a $5 million settlement in April 2018 with the U.S. government in a whistleblower lawsuit that could have sought $100 million in damages from the cyclist who was stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career. (Bernard Papon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Awarding the government default judgment Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said that Tailwind Sports must face a $369,000 civil penalty together with Johann Bruyneel, the former manager of Armstrong’s team.

Bank records show that, during the years that the U.S. Postal Service sponsored the team, Bruyneel received more than $1.2 million in salary and bonuses.

“Allowing Bruyneel to retain this benefit would be unjust,” the 13-page ruling says.

Cooper said the evidence supports default judgment on the government’s unjust enrichment and False Claims Act claims.

“The factual allegations demonstrate that Bruyneel knew doping was prohibited under the sponsorship agreement, was nonetheless aware of and encouraged doping, and made public statements to conceal the doping,” the opinion says.

Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis sued Armstrong, Bruyneel and Tailwind in 2010 when he came forward with the explosive allegations that the seven-time former Tour de France champion had been doping.

Neither Bruyneel nor Tailwind have defended themselves in the case since 2014, when the court tossed out their motions to dismiss. The government intervened in the case in 2013, however, claiming they defrauded the Postal Service by hiding the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Prior to the Postal Service entering into a new sponsorship contract with the team in 2000, both Bruyneel and Tailwind had knowingly and falsely denied doping allegations.

“The natural inference is that they intended USPS to rely on these denials when entering into the sponsorship agreement in 2000,” the ruling says, abbreviating the U.S. Postal Service.

The government argued that the Postal Service would not have forked over $32.3 million to sponsor the team if it knew about the doping scheme.

The government initially sought $100 million in damages but agreed to a $5 million settlement in April when Armstrong agreed to stop fighting it.

Though the government had since asked the court to impose maximum penalties on Bruyneel and Tailwind, Cooper called this unwarranted, noting that “the amount of damages the government suffered, if any, has been hotly disputed.”

“While the defaulting defendants took steps to conceal their conduct, they did not engage in the sort of intricate, complex cover-up present in other cases,” the opinion says.

Cooper also denied Landis’ request for damages, saying he failed to provide evidence that any benefits the Postal Service received were outweighed by the negative consequences of its sponsorship of the team.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles in 2012 after determining he and his teammates had used performance-enhancing drugs.

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