After weeks of speculation about how they would respond to Lance Armstrong's recent doping admission, the Justice Department has decided to join a whistleblower lawsuit that could cost the cyclist millions in damages.
The suit was filed against Armstrong two years ago by Floyd Landis, a former teammate who himself was busted for illegal doping and has accused Armstrong of numerous offenses. The lawsuit claims that Armstrong committed fraud and violated his sponsor agreements with the United States Postal Service when he used performance-enhancing drugs. Since he just admitted the whole thing to Oprah, we'd say they have a decent case.
Earlier this week, Armstrong announced that he would not be cooperating with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and refuses to interview with them or share what he knows about doping in cycling. Perhaps that's because the USADA urged the Justice Department to take on the lawsuit and punish Armstrong for his "massive economic fraud." Now that the DOJ has decided to join in, they can put their own resources and lawyers on the case, bolstering Landis's legal effort considerably.
Any citizen can file a whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of the government if they believe someone has committed fraud against one of its agencies. If the suit is successful, the government collects the damages—which can be triple the amount that was actually lost—but the person who filed the suit gets up to 25 percent of whatever money is recovered. The USPS gave Armstrong's cycling team more than $30 million in financial support between 2001 and 2004, when he admits he was using doping methods.