A federal judge has ruled a civil lawsuit against cyclist Lance Armstrong will proceed to a trial, after denying his legal team’s request to throw the case out of court.
The suit, originally filed by Floyd Landis, who also served on the U.S Postal Service Team alongside the Texan before turning whistleblower, could cost Armstrong nearly $100 million (£79 million/€94 million).
In 2013, the United States Federal Government joined the suit against Armstrong in an attempt to recover sponsorship funds paid by the U.S Postal Service to the team between 1998 and 2002 under the False Claims Act.
A total of $32.3 million (£25 million/€30 million) was paid to sponsor the team, but under the act, the amount reclaimed could be trebled should they win the case.
The Government argue the cyclist, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in 2012, was in breach of the team’s sponsorship contract, due to the fact he doped and then concealed it with false statements.
This in turn allowed him to continually collect money without having to pay it back, the prosecution claims.
Armstrong’s legal team argue the U.S Postal Service suffered no damages, claiming they received far more in value from the sponsorship than the amount they paid to the team.
Christopher Cooper, a district judge, has ruled that the case should proceed to a trial after turning down the request of Armstrong to have the lawsuit dismissed.
"Because the Government has offered evidence that Armstrong withheld information about the team’s doping and use of (performance-enhancing drugs) and that the anti-doping provisions of the sponsorship agreements were material to USPS’s decision to continue the sponsorship and make payments under the agreements, the Court must deny Armstrong’s motion for summary judgment on this issue," Cooper wrote.
"The Court concludes that the monetary amount of the benefits USPS received is not sufficiently quantifiable to keep any reasonable juror from finding that the agency suffered a net loss on the sponsorship, especially if one considers the adverse effect on the Postal Service’s revenues and brand value that may have resulted from the negative publicity surrounding the subsequent investigations of Armstrong’s doping and his widely publicised confession.
"Determination of damages must therefore be left to a jury.
"Accordingly, the Court declines to grant Armstrong summary judgment on damages and will set the case for trial.”
Should the Government proceed to win the case Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after a positive test, could collect up to 25 per cent after he filed the initial lawsuit.
The False Claims Act allowed him, as a whistleblower, to pursue fraud cases on behalf of the Government and then collect a share of any award.
As well as being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong was also banned from cycling for life after his confession.