Even the Famous Must Obey Whistleblower Laws
You probably haven’t heard of the whistleblower case Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corporation. But it might make a difference to you if we referred to it as “the Lance Armstrong case.” Armstrong, who was considered the best bicycle athlete in the world, was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012. Banned for life from competing ever again, Armstrong confessed to taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in early 2013.
Running Afoul of Whistleblower Statutes
Armstrong’s fraud involved the federal whistleblowing statutes because the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) sponsored Armstrong and his team. The USPS supported a professional cycling team from 1996 through 2004; Armstrong was the team’s lead rider from 1999 through 2004. He came in first at the Tour de France race six times in a row. The Tour de France is cycling’s most prestigious competition.
Floyd Landis, a former teammate, brought the whistleblower suit in June, 2010, when he admitted to PED use while riding for the USPS-sponsored team. Because the agreement between the team and the USPS required the team’s members to follow professional cycling’s rules, including those forbidding the use of PEDs and performance-enhancing methods, any sponsorship money taken from the USPS by the team became a false claim under the federal False Claims Act.
Allegations Against Armstrong
After the government intervened in the case, the U.S. suit against Armstrong claimed that he and his teammates regularly violated the anti-PED sponsorship agreements. Furthermore, the suit asserted that Armstrong made numerous false statements that denied the use of PEDs, in order to persuade the USPS to renew its sponsorship of the team and also to increase sponsorship fees that directly benefited Armstrong. It is also alleged that Armstrong actively concealed his use of PEDs, even after the sponsorship agreement ended, by:
- Lying in 2005 at an arbitration proceeding involving his bonus for the 2004 Tour de France win
- Suing a story source and the Times of London for libel
- Threatening others with similar lawsuits and “other forms of retribution” for revealing knowledge or suspicions concerning his doping activities.
The Outcome of the Case
The case was scheduled to come to trial in May, 2018, with over 50 witnesses listed to testify. The federal government could have sought damages of $100 million because of possible treble damages. However, the case was settled in late April, 2018, for $5 million. Landis, the whistleblower, received $1.1 million for his portion of the settlement.
Chad A. Readler, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, commented in a statement that, “No one is above the law. A competitor who intentionally uses illegal PEDs not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible. This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
Reportedly, Armstrong is still a multimillionaire because of his investments, homes, bicycle shops, and other financial interests.
Working with whistleblowers tirelessly to shed light on fraudulent practices.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case. Sometimes, government intervention can increase the chances of recovering reward money. But even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case. If you decide to do so, our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today or, if you prefer, use our online contact form.