Lawyers for Armstrong and Landis tussle today over statute of limitations and wartime application
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Lawyers for Armstrong and Landis tussle today over statute of limitations and wartime application

by VeloNation Press at 5:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Texan seeking to have Qui Tam case overturned, Landis’ legal team seeking further damages

Lance ArmstrongThe next stage in Lance Armstrong’s battle against Floyd Landis and the US government will take place today in Washington D.C, when the Texan tries to fight off issues relating to the statute of limitations.

Landis initiated a Qui Tam whistleblower suit in 2010, and was later joined by the US government. They are alleging fraud on the part of the former multiple Tour de France winner and his US Postal Service team, which used banned substances despite signing sponsorship agreements undertaking to compete clean.

If Landis and the US government are successful in proving that fraud was committed, Armstrong and others will be liable to pay out triple damages, with estimates stating that this could be over 100 million dollars. A total of 40 million dollars in backing was paid to the team between 1998 and 2004.

Armstrong and his legal team are today arguing that the statute of limitations should be limited to just six years, four less than is usually applied. Meanwhile Landis’ lawyers have evoked a legal clause called the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, which allows for the statute of limitations to be overturned altogether in times of military hostilities.

The argument is based on the fact that the US was at war in Afghanistan when the alleged fraud was committed; if this is successful, it means that the claims could be applied as early as from 1998, thus increasing the amount Armstrong and others would have to pay out if they lose the Qui Tam case.

“If there's no statute of limitations, they can reach back as far as they want, and get as much money scooped into the pot as possible,” Jason Workmaster, an attorney who specializes in similar cases for the firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, told USA Today.

It is estimated that a successful invoking of the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act could result in Armstrong and others needing to pay out an additional 27 million dollars, triple the nine million paid to the team between 1998 and 2000, of which up to a quarter would go to Landis.

Williams Mullen attorney Tony Anikeeff told USA Today that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act is a “a highly controversial provision” of the False Claims Act. “It is used by the Justice Department mostly in dealing with fraud in Afghanistan because we were at war. The theory behind it is that when you're in the fog of war, the government cannot be spending time to root out fraud and that it needs time after the war to pick up the pieces.”

The US government has not joined in with Landis in this aspect of the case, limiting its claims to the period from 2000 onwards.

The arguments will be heard today by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins, who will then weigh up the matter and issue his conclusion at a later point.

Armstrong’s lawyers have given their response in court filings, but will present further arguments today.

“The government chose not to argue that the war on terror and the second Iraq war distracted it from investigating doping by the United States Postal Service team,” they stated. “Landis asks the court to foist this meritless theory of liability on the government as part of his attempt to force the government to pursue tenuous theories it has chosen to discard.”

Earlier this month Armstrong’s legal team sought to have the Qui Tam case dropped by claiming that investigators leaked information to the media. It was a resurrection of a complaint lodged in July 2011, when they claimed that the alleged leaks showed that there was “an underlying partisanship inherent in government agents,” and accused the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated and CBS's "60 Minutes" of reporting illegally leaked information.

However the claims didn’t take account of the fact that others may have been behind the leaks; while it is not permitted for federal agents to speak with the media, those who have themselves given evidence are permitted to confirm their submissions if they so wish.

Last year Armstrong was handed a lifetime ban and had all of his results since August 1998 stripped; he then admitted long-term doping in a televised confession with Oprah Winfrey screened in January of this year. Yesterday details emerged of further admissions; the Daily Mail reported that Armstrong met with former US Postal Service team soigneur Emma O’Reilly in Forida.

She had been the first witness to speak out about doping on the team, saying that she helped him conceal needle marks on his arm in 1999 and that he had also covered up a positive test with a backdated prescription.

Armstrong has confirmed for the first time that the-then head of the UCI Hein Verbruggen was directly involved in the cover-up.

“The real problem was, the sport was on life support. And Hein [Verbruggen] just said, ‘This is a real problem for me, this is the knockout punch for our sport, the year after Festina, so we've got to come up with something.’ So we backdated the prescription,” he stated.

He also gave the first details admitting that the Italian drug doctor Michele Ferrari was involved in doping the team.

Armstrong had previously denied that Ferrari had been involved in the administration of banned substances.

Earlier this month Verbruggen issued a long statement defending his name and his presidency.

“The UCI has never protected Armstrong. Any decision on Armstrong and any other racer has been taken in accordance with established facts and scientific means available at that time,” he wrote in the statement, which was published by Tuttobici.

“I want to make it clear that I have never acted inappropriately and that my conscience is absolutely clean. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt, as has happened in recent months.”

Despite that statement, yesterday’s revelation ensures that the question mark over him has become even bigger.


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