On February 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will intervene in a Qui Tam whistleblower suit filed against Lance Armstrong, his team manager and Tailwind Sports, LLC.
The lawsuit was filed by relator Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong, and is based upon the submission of false claims to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in connection with its sponsorship of a professional bicycle racing team. As the USPS team’s lead rider, Lance Armstrong captured six consecutive Tour de France titles. Mr. Armstrong recently admitted on the Oprah Winfrey show that he utilized performance enhancing drugs and doping methods to win the titles. Armstrong’s actions violated the terms of his agreement with the USPS and ultimately led to Landis’ whistleblower suit and an investigation by the USPS Office of Inspector General.
This high-visibility whistleblower suit illustrates an important point. While Armstrong will doubtless argue that the USPS received beneficial publicity from its sponsorship of the bicycling team, the government will counter that it still failed to receive exactly what it contracted for: a drug and doping-free squad. Though certainly a unique case, the whistleblower suit against Armstrong shares many features with other qui tam suits filed in more routine matters (especially Medicaid and Medicare) around the country. The government pays money ($31 million in sponsorship fees in this instance). The recipient cheats and makes false claims. Someone blows the whistle, and starts the case to recover the lost money.