US Justice Department considering joining investigations into Landis’ claims
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

US Justice Department considering joining investigations into Landis’ claims

by VeloNation Press at 10:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Details emerge of lawsuit filed by Landis under whistleblower act

Floyd LandisAlready dealing with a federal investigation, Lance Armstrong and several others may also become the subject of scrutiny by the US Justice Department. It is considering whether to become involved in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Floyd Landis earlier this year, relating to the False Claims Act.

Details of the lawsuit, which is separate to the investigation currently being co-ordinated by FDA’s Jeff Novitzky, are confidential and therefore scarce. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, Landis’s complaint may be that a fraud was committed against the US Postal Service, which sponsored Armstrong’s team until the end of 2004.

Landis, the U.S Postal Service and a Justice Department spokesman all declined to give comment.

Laws relating to whistleblower actions state that the government can opt to get involved in cases such as that started by Landis. If it decides not to do so, he can continue his own action.

According to the Journal, both a US Justice Department lawyer and a US Postal inspector requested documents last week from the SCA arbitration hearings, which were held in 2005 and investigated claims made then that Armstrong had doped en route to his Tour victories. SCA Promotions had been paid an annual premium by Armstrong’s team, and was due to give him a $5 million performance bonus after he won his sixth Tour.

SCA eventually paid $7.5 million; it settled the case as there was no anti-doping clause in the contract, and so doubts in this area could not be used to withhold payment.

It is thought that some of the information gathered there could be of relevance to the current investigators, including statements made under oath by those who were questioned.

One angle of investigation was if the US Postal Service company was defrauded by the use of performance enhancing substances. The Wall Street Journal has seen a copy of the sponsorship agreement and it stated that “negative publicity" due to "alleged possession, use or sale of banned substances" by riders or team personnel would constitute an "event of default." So too would a failure to take "action" in the event a rider violates a morals or drug clause.

If it was shown that the team management deliberately encouraged or facilitated riders to break anti-doping laws, then that would go against the terms of the sponsorship agreement.

Under whistleblower laws, Mr. Landis could collect 30% of any money the government recovers. This fact has prompted a dismissive response by Armstrong’s recently-appointed spokesman, Mark Fabiani.

"This news that Floyd Landis is in this for the money re-confirms everything we all knew about Landis," he wrote in a statement. "By his own admission, he is a serial liar, an epic cheater, and a swindler who raised and took almost a million dollars from his loyal fans based on his lies."

There have however been reports that other, as yet un-named people have backed up Landis’ claims in sworn statements. If his accusations of widespread doping on the US Postal Service team are corroborated, Fabiani’s blasting of Landis’ character – and alleged motivations – may be a moot point. Landis has said that the fact that he lied in the past doesn’t mean that his more recent statements are untrue.

“What is a person supposed to do when they make a wrong decision?,” he said on NBC’s Nightline programme in July. “Are you committed to that path for good? Once you tell a lie, are you committed to tell that lie forever?

According to the New York Daily News, a wide range of people are named as defendants in the complaint made by Landis. These include Armstrong himself, former US Postal Service team manager Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s corporate backers Bart Knaggs, Bill Stapleton, and Thom Weisel, as well as the Tailwind Sports Corporation, Tailwind LLC, Montgomery Sports, Inc., and Capital Sports and Entertainment. These were all involved in backing the multiple Tour winner’s teams.

Meanwhile the federal investigation led by Novitzky is continuing to take statements and gather evidence. It will proceed independent of what happens in the whistleblower case, but if the US Justice Department does opt to get involved in the latter, that will increase the pressure even further.

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