Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and the False Claims Act

Today’s Washington Post Sports Section provides this perspective on an important False Claims Act case:

“For Armstrong, Thursday’s settlement marks a chance to move forward, Stepping away from financial fears and deciding what is post-cycling life and post-livestrong societal contribution might look like.”

Rick Maese “Analysis” D1

Great but, what about everyone else?

The Sports section misses the point, even as to sports, much less to False Claims Act law.

Armstrong after all lorded over his teammates and his competitors too. In sports he’s at the head of a long line of stars who we may be able to admire for talent, and even perseverance, but have a giant question mark around them*.

Meantime as to False Claims Act law, Armstrong paid $5Million to the United States to settle allegations he defrauded the US Postal Service while taking government money to promote it. He and his lawyers claimed the post office suffered little or no damages in terms of publicity, but Armstrong did not exactly suffer financially from the arrangement, which paid him and his team more than $30Million. Now he is “stepping away from financial fears,” that’s one way to put it.

If you are either a sports or qui tam fan you know most of the rest, but here is what the Justice Department says about it:

The United States’ lawsuit against Armstrong alleged that Armstrong and his team regularly and systematically employed PEDs, in violation of the USPS sponsorship agreements. The lawsuit further alleged that Armstrong made numerous false statements, directly and through team managers and spokesmen, to USPS management and to the public denying his PED use to induce the USPS to renew its sponsorship of the team in late 2000, and to increase the sponsorship fees (and, by extension, Armstrong’s own salary) in light of Armstrong’s apparent Tour de France victories in 1999 and 2000. In addition, the lawsuit alleged that Armstrong took active measures to conceal his PED use during the USPS sponsorship, and even after the sponsorship ended, including lying under oath about his PED use in a 2005 arbitration proceeding involving his entitlement to a bonus for the 2004 Tour de France result; suing the Times of London and one of its sources – a former team masseuse – for libel; and threatening other people with similar lawsuits and other forms of retribution for disclosing their knowledge or suspicions of his doping activities.

Click here for more info.

The idea promoted in his Defense, that such a term to a contract can be lied about, a term relied upon to obtain more money, should get little consideration in a case ought to disturb everyone. The USPS may have gotten great deal of publicity, but the publicity they wanted was publicity un-tainted by scandal and everybody is supposed to say no big deal because they got a lot of publicity that apparently somebody lied to get.

I’m glad Armstrong had to pay, and as usual it would not bother me if it were a lot more. I’m less concerned with how he goes forward in his life than hearing from Floyd Landis the man who at some considerable risk to his future life stepped up to file a case against Armstrong.

Mr. Landis filed the case in 2010. His Relator’s share is, in terms of percentage, relatively high at $1.1Million but, its less than whatever Armstrong earned on the interest in what he got out of the USPS over the years, I’d be willing to bet. Landis’ Lawyers who waited a long time too, earned whatever they got.

I’m glad Floyd Landis will be rewarded for blowing the whistle, but the idea that we should be happy for Armstrong, because he gets to go on with his life seems absurd. Once upon a time he was a hero for fighting cancer and of course that stands as his true achievement but also for then winning the Tour De France. He is undoubtedly a great athlete. He also took $30 million from the US Postal Service, which was victimized by this. Then he pushed the limits of the law to protect himself.

Remember the next time you hear somebody claim that whistleblowers (like say Landis) are greedy that Scott Armstrong was already rich from being an athlete when he got and when re-upped these contracts with the US Postal service. It would have taken an awful lot of guts to stand up and point out the cheating if you were Scott Armstrong I guess. That’s why today, I’m a fan of Floyd Landis.

* Not just an asterisk about a record, this is also a question mark around the person and the whole career. There is a big difference between Roger Marris and Scott Armstrong as to sport and everything else.