By Jonathan Easley - 02/22/13 05:42 PM EST
The Justice Department (DOJ) will join a lawsuit against Lance Armstrong for using banned performance enhancing drugs in cycling competitions, the department announced.
The whistleblower lawsuit was originally filed by one of Armstrong’s former teammates, Floyd Landis, who has himself admitted to doping.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) was a primary sponsor of Armstrong’s cycling team, and the DOJ case will claim Armstrong defrauded the federal government of $30 million in USPS sponsorship payments by violating its ban on illegal drugs.
“Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules — including the rules against doping,” Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement. “The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’ ”
Machen noted the financial woes of the postal service, which recently announced plans to end Saturday mail delivery in order to stay solvent.
"This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises. In today’s economic climate, the U.S. Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured.”
Armstrong plans to argue that the USPS “benefitted tremendously” from his sponsorship, according to a statement provided by Armstrong’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, which was posted on NBC’s Facebook page.
"Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged,” Luskin said. “The Postal's Services own studies show that the Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100 million."
Over that time, rumors persisted about Armstrong's purported drug use, but he battled the allegations, often times suing those who spoke out against him.
Last year a U.S. Anti-Doping agency report produced evidence of Armstrong’s doping, and earlier this year he publicly admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Armstrong has since been stripped of his titles and banned from the sport of cycling.
--This report was updated at 2:52 p.m.