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Justice Department joins fraud suit against Lance Armstrong

  • FILE - In this July 28, 2006 file photo, Lance Armstrong testifies during a U.S. Senate field hearing on cancer research and funding in Iowa City, Iowa. Armstrong is facing a Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 deadline to decide whether he will meet with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials and talk with them under oath about what he knows about performance-enhancing drug use in cycling. The agency has said Armstrong's cooperation in its cleanup effort is the only path open to Armstrong if his lifetime ban from sports it to be reduced.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department joined a lawsuit Friday against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong that alleges the former seven-time Tour de France champion concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauded his longtime sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service.

The lawsuit alleges that riders on the postal service-sponsored team, including Armstrong, knowingly violated their postal service agreements by regularly employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance.

"Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules — including the rules against doping," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, whose office is handling the case. "The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as 'the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.'"

In recent weeks, settlement discussions had been under way between the Justice Department and Armstrong's lawyers. A person familiar with the negotiations said Friday the two sides are tens of millions of dollars apart on how much Armstrong should pay to settle the case. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the private talks.

From 1996 through 2004, the postal service sponsored a professional cycling team run by Tailwind Sports Corp., and Armstrong was the lead rider. From 1999 to 2004, he won six consecutive Tour de France titles. The suit also said Johan Bruyneel, the team's manager, knew that team members were using performance-enhancing substances and facilitated the practice.


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