Lance Armstrong was once considered one of the most inspirational stories in the world of sports. Here was a guy who was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which spread to numerous parts of his body, including his brain. His chances for survival were minimal, but Armstrong fought his disease aggressively and ended up beating cancer into remission. He would go on to win the Tour De France a record seven consecutive times, a feat made even more incredible due to what he had to overcome.
Almost from the outset though, there were whispers behind the scenes. How could a man that had fought off cancer such a short time ago manage to do the things he was accomplishing. As his Tour De France trophies kept building up, so did the accusations coming against him. They came from former champs like Greg Lemond. They also came from anti-doping agencies, as well. Each time these charges were presented, Armstrong responded the same way, saying he was clean and to check his tests. He said his clean record proved that he was telling the truth.
Finally, in 2013, Armstrong could pedal away no longer from the outcries. USADA and others accumulated a mountain of evidence that indicated the famed cyclist had doped during his historic run. Armstrong finally took to the airwaves and acknowledged that he had indeed taken performance-enhancing substances to help him win. That admission cost him his reputation, as well as damaged his charitable organization, Livestrong, which helps people with cancer all over the world. Armstrong had hoped that by coming out, his troubles might start to recede. He was incorrect as the U.S. government now is coming a calling, looking for some financial reimbursement.
Through most of his historic run in France, Armstrong’s cycling team was sponsored by the United States Postal Service. It seemed like a good arrangement at the time as the USPS got great advertising, and Armstrong got paid $40 million in sponsorship fees over a six year period, according to a CNN article. In hindsight, with the current issues with the Postal Service, maybe that was not such a good idea. With that said, the U.S. government is now taking Lance to court, looking for triple the amount of the sponsorship funds under the False Claims Act. If they win the case, Armstrong and two other defendants could be on the hook for more than $100 million in damages.
The government’s thought is that the drug use that Armstrong admitted to constituted to a breach of contract with the Postal Service. This had been a realistic possibility for months as bad publicity and mounting debt almost assured that the USPS would file charges. It names Armstrong, team manager Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports LLC as defendants. So as bad as things have been for Armstrong over the past few months, now the government is coming to hit him where it hurts, which is in the wallet.