Armstrong, US government fight over experts in looming fraud case

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In Photo: Lance Armstrong poses with his US Postal Service teammates.

THE US federal “whistle-blower” case against Lance Armstrong is set to go to trial in November, and Armstrong’s attorneys and those of the US government are already locked in battle over what experts each side will be allowed to call upon for testimony.

Armstrong was the target of a federal False Claims Act lawsuit brought by former teammate Floyd Landis in 2010 under the assertion that the former cycling star’s doping constituted fraud against the government. Should he lose, Armstrong could owe up to $100 million, and Landis would be due a cut of the damages.

Armstrong won the Tour de France in 1999, and with owners Tailwind Sports subsequently negotiated a larger sponsorship deal for the 2000 season. Armstrong fended off multiple accusations of doping throughout his seven-year Tour de France run, but escaped punishment until 2012, when the US Anti-Doping Agency issued an official anti-doping rule violation against him and five others. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned, then subsequently confessed to doping in 2013.

The government asserts that the US Postal Service’s sponsorship had no value because Armstrong and some of his teammates doped, then lied about it to keep the money coming in.

Armstrong’s attorneys have long argued that the US Postal Service got far more in marketing value from its sponsorship than the $32.2 million it paid the team from 2000 to 2004.

The government lawyers questioned the competence of Armstrong’s expert witness, Douglas Kidder, who calculated the value of the US Postal Service exposure thanks to the team at $257 million.

“Mr. Kidder is not competent to testify about earned media in general, much less in the context of the facts of this case,” government attorneys wrote in a court filing, according to USA Today. “The Court should not permit this testimony to be presented to the jury.”

Armstrong’s lawyers, in turn, want three of the government experts thrown out, including Larry Grebrant, who tallied the media impressions about Armstrong’s doping at 1.5 billion with another 154 billion online impressions. The government refuted their accusations that Gerbrandt is unqualified.

“The government would like to offer Mr. Gerbrandt’s counting exercise and allow the jury to speculate that the USPS suffered harm as a result of the summary and that such harm exceeded the benefits the USPS enjoyed under the sponsorship,” government attorneys wrote. “The jury cannot be allowed to speculate on this critical issue.”

Armstrong has already lost several attempts to have the case thrown out under the argument that the US Postal Service suffered no damages, including a last denial in February by District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.

Cooper determined that a jury should hear both sides and come to a conclusion on the amount of any damages that should be awarded to the government, if any.

Armstrong faces a minimum of $225,500 in statutory penalties even if his lawyers’ arguments work, but stands to lose much more—triple the amount of the sponsorship—if they fail. Cyclingnews