MURRIETA – Former Murrieta resident and cyclist Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France championship after a positive drug test. Landis, who is originally a Lancaster County native, was a member of the U.S. Postal Service Cycling team from 2002 through 2004 and has quickly targeted not only Lance Armstrong, but also three of Armstrong’s closest associates in a recently publicized whistle-blower lawsuit that has been under judicial seal for more than two and a half years.
The suit claims that Armstrong and his associates defrauded the federal government by accepting roughly $30 million in sponsorship money to bankroll a U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling team that was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs. The 33-page suit, which has been under seal since it was filed June 10, 2010, was leaked and posted on a blog two weeks ago, about nine hours before the first of a series of episode’s of Armstrong’s interviews with Oprah Winfrey was aired.
After more than a decade of intense denials, Armstrong confessed in the interview to having doped during a career that included seven Tour de France championships and an Olympic bronze medal.
The U.S. Justice Department was also faced with a Thursday deadline last week to decide whether to join Landis’ action but is believed to have requested an extension. Federal officials are reportedly divided on whether pursuing the case represents a prudent use of taxpayer dollars.
The whistle-blower suit does in fact detail Landis’ own use of banned substances and blood-doping practices along with numerous instances of Armstrong and others doing the same in hotel rooms, on team buses, and in private apartments.
The reward would be a cut of the money that’s recovered – 15 to 25 percent if the U.S. Department of Justice joins the action and takes the lead role in the case, or 25 percent to 30 percent if Floyd pursues the case without the government’s help or resources. As it stands now, Landis could collect millions if his case, filed under the federal False Claims Act, goes forward and succeeds.