The $100 million legal battle between Lance Armstrong and the federal government has reached its most critical stage yet.
After more than two years of bickering over pretrial evidence, both sides were set to file lengthy court documents Wednesday that ask a federal judge to decide key issues that that could dramatically affect the case.
The government is suing the former cyclist, along with his former team director, Johan Bruyneel, and his former team owner, Tailwind Sports. The suit seeks damages on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, which paid more than $30 million to sponsor Armstrong’s team from 1998 to 2004.
“Because the factual record is undisputed, the United States respectfully requests that this Court enter an order granting partial summary judgment in its favor against Defendants Tailwind, Armstrong, and Bruyneel,” the government stated in its filing Wednesday.
Armstrong also is expected to request summary judgment against the government, a motion that asks the judge to rule on the case without a trial based on undisputed facts already established.
A decision could come later this year, giving a significant victory or defeat to each side. Otherwise the case could proceed to trial, prolonging a heavyweight legal slugfest that revved up in 2013, when the government joined a case originally filed in 2010 by Armstrong’s former teammate, Floyd Landis.
In its suit, the government says the team’s doping practices breached its sponsorship contract with the USPS and that it submitted false claims for payment while in violation of that contract.
The government gave an exact amount Wednesday, saying Tailwind Sports and its predecessor, made 41 “claims for payment to the United States between June 10, 2000 and October 31, 2004 under the 1995 and 2000, Sponsorship Agreements, for which the USPS paid Tailwind and its predecessor DFP Cycling LLC a total of $32,267,279.85.”
The damages could be tripled to nearly $100 million under the False Claims Act, with Armstrong possibly on the hook for all of it and Landis in line to get a cut of it as the whistleblower who brought the case.