Former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will testify under oath about his alleged use of illicit drugs today.
The testimony is part of a lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act. The suit alleges that Armstrong defrauded the U.S. government out of more than $40 million.
Armstrong received the funds from the U.S. Postal Service, which sponsored Armstrong’s cycling team, Tailwind. However, the suit alleges that Armstrong received those payments based on false claims related to Armstrong’s alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Because the government may seek “treble damages,” if found liable, Armstrong could have to pay back around $96 million. (The actual sum could be more if not for the statute of limitations.)
However, the federal government did not initially discover the alleged fraud. Armstrong’s ex-teammate Floyd Landis first brought the suit in 2010, on behalf of the government. As a result, Landis could recover millions for bringing the violations to light.
Armstrong’s defense argued that the claim could not proceed because the Postal Service had investigated the doping allegations years earlier, but decided to take no action. However, U.S. Judge Robert L. Wilkins rejected the argument based on Armstrong’s repeated representations that he was innocent. If the allegations are true, Armstrong will not get off just because he successfully deceived the government.
The False Claims Act permits the federal government to sue for damages if it pays money based on fraudulent claims. However, the law includes a “qui tam” provision, which allows ordinary citizens with knowledge of the fraud to sue on the government’s behalf. For the trouble, the False Claims Act awards the whistleblower (known as a “relator”) a percentage of the government’s recovery. Moreover, the False Claims Act protects employees from retaliation for pursuing violations of the law.
If you know of fraudulent claims made to the government, or if you have suffered retaliation for identifying potential false claims, you should contact an experienced whistleblower attorney to understand your rights.
By Dallas Hammer