Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah about doping doesn’t appear to be doing him any favors. On Friday, the Justice Department joined a lawsuit against the former Tour de France champion, accusing him of concealing his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauding the U.S. Postal Service, which had long been his sponsor.
According to the lawsuit, cyclists riding on the sponsored team, which included Armstrong, knowingly violated their agreements with the U.S. Postal Service by regularly employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said that 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.
"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,'" said Machen, whose office is handling the case.
A settlement between the two parties had been reported in recent weeks, with an anonymous source familiar with the negotiations telling the Associated Press today that the two sides are tens of millions of dollars apart on how much Armstrong should pay to settle the case.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department makes it clear that its reason for joining the lawsuit stems from Armstrong's concealment of his doping activities and that the cover up went back to at least 1998.
"The U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team was run as a fraudulent enterprise and individuals both inside and outside of sport aided and abetted this scheme and profited greatly," said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). "USADA applauds today's action by the U.S. Department of Justice which holds promise for returning the many millions of federal dollars in ill-gotten gains generated by this fraud."
The USADA lobbied Attorney General Eric Holder for the Justice Department to join the lawsuit against Armstrong last month.
Robert Luskin, an attorney for Armstrong, says negotiations with the government failed because the parties disagreed about whether the postal service was damaged.
"The postal service's own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100 million," Luskin said. "Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly."