Now that Lance Armstrong has reportedly come clean to the public about using performance-enhancing drugs, there is much speculation about the legal repercussions. Armstrong’s confession is in contrast to statements he has made under oath and to lawsuits he’s won against those who tried to out him in the past. While it is unclear what may now become of those cases, Armstrong’s recent admission may put fire under the U.S. government to join a whistle-blower lawsuit against him.
Wisconsin residents may know that in 2010 one of Armstrong’s former teammates filed a qui tam whistle-blower lawsuit against Armstrong and others allegedly involved in the doping scandal. The lawsuit accused Armstrong and others of violating the team’s contract with the U.S. Postal Service, which barred the cyclists from taking performance-enhancing drugs.
This lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act, which allows citizens to file lawsuits against companies or individuals suspected of defrauding the government. Whistle-blowers are generally entitled to a piece of the award recovered in these cases.
Very few details have been released about the whistle-blower case facing Armstrong. This is because whistle-blower cases are kept under a temporary seal while the Justice Department decides whether to intervene. What is known is that USPS paid an estimated $30 million to sponsor Armstrong and his team under the terms of the contract.
The seal in this whistle-blower case expired Friday, meaning the Justice Department was scheduled to decide whether to join the case by then. It has not been reported whether the Justice Department will intervene and it is possible that the seal has been extended.
It remains to be seen whether the government will choose to prosecute this case. If not, the whistle-blower and his lawyers may still proceed with the case. If a reward is recovered, it would still go to the government with the whistle-blower receiving a portion.
This case, like all whistle-blower cases, is quite complicated. Whistle-blowers are put in very difficult situations as their lawsuits frequently result in retaliation at the hands of the accused parties. Armstrong himself has been accused of retaliating against those who tried to cross him. Due to such consequences, whistle-blowers often seek legal counsel before initiating a False Claims Act lawsuit.
Source: Forbes, “The Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Lance Armstrong: What to Expect Next,” Erika Kelton, Jan. 17, 2013
- Our law firm helps whistle-blowers protect their rights throughout the process of a qui tam claim. To learn more about this area of the law, please visit our Wisconsin employment law firm’s Qui Tam Whistle-Blower Claims page.