"But we still need to wring a useful lesson out of all this [i.e., the Lance Armstrong confession]. Let’s consider the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team. Between 1996 and 2004, our American mail system invested an estimated $40 million in this venture, in return for which Armstrong and his teammates rode around with the Postal Service insignia on their shirts.
This would be the same Postal Service that lost $16 billion last year, and I believe I speak for every stamp-buyer in the nation when I say: What?"
I sure hope the post office gets its money back, if only to stop its most recent junk mail fundraising scheme. Everybody else is sure gonna try. And indeed, the U.S. Justice Department has already been negotiating with Armstrong over a federal whistleblower lawsuit brought by Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis, alleging “that Armstrong and team managers defrauded the U.S. government when they accepted money from the U.S. Postal Service.” (See more details here.)
The suit stems from the Postal Service contract, which “required that the team refrain from using performance-enhancing drugs” and the now undeniable fraud amounts to a violation of the Federal False Claims Act. This suit could cost Armstrong nearly $100 million, and if he does lose, I sure hope all the money gets earmarked for the U.S. Postal Service. But unfortunately, Armstrong apparently defrauded many people and companies who also want their cut – like insurance companies - so its unclear what damages might be available for any of these parties.
Writes today’s Dallas Morning News:
Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lance Armstrong under camera lights this week, but Dallas attorney Jeffrey Tillotson is the only person to have interviewed the disgraced cyclist under oath. He could also be the first to sue Armstrong after his confession to Winfrey.
Tillotson said there could be a lawsuit as early as Friday on behalf of his client, Dallas-based SCA Promotions, a sports insurance company. SCA had to pay Armstrong bonuses for three Tour de France victories on behalf of Tailwind Sports, which owned the U.S. Postal Service team for which Armstrong raced. …
Tillotson questioned Armstrong in Austin on Nov. 30, 2005, during a deposition resulting from SCA Promotions’ attempts to keep from paying the cyclist $12 million for winning the Tour de France in 2002, 2003 and 2004. SCA had insured the bonuses on behalf of Tailwind Sports.
Then there is the suit by Britain's Sunday Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which has already filed legal papers over the $500,000 it paid to Armstrong in 2006 to settle a libel lawsuit “after it reprinted claims from a book in 2004 that he took performance-enhancing drugs.” It wants its money back, interest and costs –about $1.6 million.
The International Cycling Union is also urging Armstrong to return the $4 million in prize money that he won from the Tour de France.
The South Australian government also wants its money back, which it paid Armstrong to race at the Tour Down Under.
After retiring from professional cycling following his seventh tour win, Armstrong launched his much-publicized racing comeback at the Tour Down Under in 2009 and also competed in the event the following two years.
The SA government has never detailed just how much he was paid for his appearances, which dramatically increased national and international interest in the race.
Mr. Weatherill said the government would continue to keep the figure secret as disclosing the amount would reveal to others just how much the government was prepared to pay in support of major events.
Like, say, the U.S. Post Office? And here is another idea. How about ending these government/sports sponsorship deals. As Gail Collins put it,
There still are sponsorship deals floating all around the federal government. (The Army has one with the National Hot Rod Association.) Nobody seems to keep track of exactly how much they add up to. Maybe this one little area could be a staging ground for bipartisan accord. Republicans and Democrats could join together to ban the use of federal taxpayer dollars for sponsorship of sports events. Then they would be so pleased with their progress that they could move on and pass a genuine budget. The Lance Armstrong debacle would have a point!