From the New York Times:
Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against his former team — the United States Postal Service squad that included the seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong — claiming that the team defrauded the government, two people briefed on the matter said on Friday.
Landis is claiming that team management was aware of the team’s widespread doping when the contract with the Postal Service clearly stated that any doping would constitute default of their agreement, the people said. They did not want their names published because the suit is still under seal. The case was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in its online edition.
In May, Landis publicly claimed that Armstrong and other Postal Service teammates were involved in systematic doping in the early-to-mid 2000s. Armstrong has vehemently denied allegations that he has doped. He has said Landis lacks credibility after lying about his doping practices.
Armstrong and his former Postal team are already under federal criminal investigation for charges that may include fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, drug distribution and breaches of employment law. A grand jury has been convened and has already begun to hear testimony and examine documents. This week, Armstrong’s lawyers met with prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, the office that is in charge of the case.
Read the full article at Landis Is Said to File Whistle-Blower Lawsuit Against U.S. Postal Service Team – NYTimes.com.
And from the Wall Street Journal article mentioned in the Times article:
The U.S. Justice Department is weighing whether to intervene in a federal whistle-blower lawsuit filed earlier this year by one of Lance Armstrong’s former cycling teammates, Floyd Landis, people familiar with the matter say.
Mr. Landis’s lawsuit was filed under the federal False Claims Act, these people say. The act allows citizens to sue on behalf of the government alleging the government has been defrauded.
The U.S. Postal Service, an independent federal agency, sponsored the team led by Mr. Armstrong for several years during which Mr. Landis has said some of its riders, including himself and Mr. Armstrong, cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs and practices.
Because such lawsuits initially are kept under seal, the exact nature of Mr. Landis’s accusations could not be determined. Such a lawsuit is likely to claim a fraud was committed against the Postal Service in relation to the alleged doping.
And you really have to wonder when the only mention I can find in the cycling press (on VeloNews.com) is a wire article from Agence France Presse (AFP), who cite the article in the Wall Street Journal as their source. What does it mean that mainstream media is breaking these stories faster than the cycling press?
One thing is for sure … the 30% of any fund recovered that Landis would be able to collect would certainly be an incentive for this lawsuit and perceived vendetta against Lance Armstrong, and the Armstrong defense has already put that out there as Landis’ motivation. But I think without the lawsuit, the allegations this time are big enough that they have to be investigated no matter what … and I wouldn’t be surprised if the was the discussions of the legal issues on VeloNews and in other news outlets that prompted the actual filing, if it didn’t pre-date the original public allegations.
This continues to be an interesting story to watch, and will only get bigger before it disappears.