US Government Sues Lance Armstrong Sued Over Sponsorship Money

Lance Armstrong is being sued by the US government, accused of defrauding the Postal Service by taking millions of dollars in sponsorship money while cheating.

Armstrong finally confessed in January he doped during his seven successive Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005, and now the US department of justice is joining a whistleblower lawsuit brought in 2010 by Armstrong's former teammate, Floyd Landis.

The department filed its formal complaint on Tuesday, with the lawsuit claiming Armstrong and his teammates from Tailwind Sports were paid $40m by the Postal Service from 1998 to 2004. Armstrong's salary during that time, excluding bonuses, was $17.9m, the complaint adds.

Armstrong is one of sport's greatest disgraces

The government is suing under the False Claims Act and can recoup up to three times the amount it lost as a result of the fraud. It also alleges breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour titles and was banned for life from cycling in 2012 after accusations he had cheated for years.

Having denied the claims for well over a decade, he finally admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

An attorney for Armstrong said the complaint was opportunistic and insincere.

"The US Postal Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship of the cycling team. The USPS was never the victim of fraud," said attorney Elliot Peters. "Lance Armstrong rode his heart out for the USPS team and gave the brand tremendous exposure during the sponsorship years."

The department's lawsuit echoes claims by Landis, cited by many as the catalyst for Armstrong's gradual and spectacular downfall, that Armstrong and others defrauded the US government by falsely denying the doping accusations.

Landis was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs

"He knew that his teammates were engaged in similar doping practices, and he actively encouraged and facilitated those practices," the complaint says.

"The United Stated suffered damage in that it did not receive the value of the services for which it bargained."

A lawyer for Landis, Paul Scott, said in statement he was "pleased to see the United States take this important step toward recovering taxpayer dollars lost to fraud".

Armstrong and Landis, pictured in 2005, were US Postal teammates

On Christmas Eve, the Sunday Times announced they were suing Armstrong for £1m over the settlement of a libel action.

Armstrong received £300,000 from the newspaper in 2004 as payment towards his legal fees, after an article written by David Walsh questioned the validity of his success after he had survived testicular cancer.

Walsh told Huffington Post UK Sport in December Lord Justice Eady's judgement gave journalists an "excuse" not to unmask the truth.