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Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal

lancearmstrongAfter years of denials, the disgraced cyclist answered has come clean, admitting in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs in his seven Tour de France wins.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it has joined the whistle-blower lawsuit against cyclist Lance Armstrong that was originally filed by a former teammate.

The Justice Department will file its formal complaint in 60 days.

Armstrong, the onetime legendary and now disgraced cyclist, has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. He was the team’s lead rider when the U.S. Postal Service sponsored the team from 1996 to 2004 and Armstrong won six of his seven Tour de France titles, the Justice Department said.

The civil lawsuit alleges that Armstrong and former team managers submitted false claims for government funds to the sponsoring Postal Service by their “regularly employing banned substances and method to enhance their performance” in violation of the sponsorship agreement, the federal announcement said.

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“Today’s action demonstrates the Department of Justice’s steadfast commitment to safeguarding federal funds and making sure that contractors live up to their promises,” Stuart F. Delery, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the civil division, said in a statement.

Between 2001 and 2004, the Postal Service paid $31 million in sponsorship fees, but that affiliation has now been “unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,’ ” said Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

“In today’s economic climate, the U.S. Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured,” Machen said.

The suit that the Justice Department is joining is by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis and was unsealed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins. It provides details of the payments Armstrong and his team received while they promised to abide by the rules of cycling’s governing bodies. Those rules prohibited the use of certain performance enhancing substances and methods.

“This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out (to) the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises,” Machen said.

The suit also names as defendants Johan Bruyneel, who had managed the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery racing teams on which Armstrong raced, and Tailwind Sports, which was the team’s management entity, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department is joining the lawsuit’s allegations against Bruyneel and Tailwind, but it isn’t intervening in the suit’s claims against several other defendants, the agency said.

The U.S. Postal Service supported the Justice Department intervention.

This so-called qui tam case allows the resources of the federal government to intervene on the side of a whistle-blower. If the suit is successful the government stands to recoup millions, and Landis stands to claim a sizable share of the proceeds — possibly in the millions of dollars. The government had been working on the case for several weeks in advance of a likely federal intervention.

“The defendants agreed to play by the rules and not use performance enhancing drugs,” general counsel and executive vice president Mary Anne Gibbons said in a statement. “We now know that the defendants failed to live up to their agreement, and instead knowingly engaged in a pattern of activity that violated the rules of professional cycling and, therefore, violated the terms of their contracts with the Postal Service.”

The lawsuit accuses the former management of Armstrong’s team of defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars because it knew about the drug use and didn’t do anything.

The federal government had been evaluating for weeks whether to intervene in the lawsuit.

An attorney for Armstrong, Robert Luskin, said that ongoing discussions between the federal government and Armstrong’s legal team had collapsed.

“Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged,” Luskin said. “The Postal Service’s own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship — benefits totaling more than $100 million.”

Armstrong’s attorneys declined to comment further on Friday’s Justice Department announcement.

Former teammate Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a drug test, filed the lawsuit in 2010 against the team, which was sponsored the U.S. Postal Service.

Landis was a teammate of Armstrong on the Postal Service-sponsored team from 2002 to 2004, and his lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act, the Justice Department said. That act is commonly called the whistle-blower law.

The law permits the federal government to investigate allegations and intervene, the Justice Department said.

The act was originally passed in 1863 when government officials were concerned that suppliers to the Union Army during the Civil War could be defrauding them.

In 1986, Congress modified the law to make it easier for whistle-blowers to bring cases and give them a larger share of any penalties collected. Whistle-blowers can now take home between 15% and 30% of the sums collected in their cases.

For years, Armstrong had denied drug use and blood doping, but he publicly admitted such use in January, three months after international cycling’s governing body stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles.

That stripping came after a damning report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong and his team of the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program” in cycling history.

That agency praised the Justice Department’s announcement.

“The U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team was run as a fraudulent enterprise and individuals both inside and outside of sport aided and abetted this scheme and profited greatly,” CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement.

CNN

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong became emotional during the second part of his exclusive two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Friday night (Jan 18).

The seven-time Tour de France winner said that he still wants to compete, and he confirmed that he has been undergoing therapy to deal with what he calls his ‘demons.’

But Armstrong said the most painful thing he’s had to do recently is admit the truth to his children, especially his 13-year-old son.

“When this all started,” Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey, “I saw (my son) defending me, and saying ‘That’s not true. What you’re saying about my Dad isn’t true.’  And I told him…”

At this juncture in the interview, Armstrong broke down, choking back tears, visibly wracked by pain and embarrassment.

Then he continued.  “I said to him, ‘Don’t defend me any more.’”

Despite Armstrong’s confessions to Oprah, officials with a world anti-doping agency say they believe Armstrong is still lying about the extent of his  drug use.

They say there is significant evidence that that he also took performance-enhancing drugs during his Tour de France comeback in 2009 and 2010, something that Armstrong continues to deny.

AUSTIN, TX — After years of tenacious spin that he was innocent, Lance Armstrong has backpedaled in a confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey.

He admitted unequivocally to using performance enhancing drugs in his seven Tour de France wins.

But his critics say he is still spinning the story.

Armstrong has, in the past, persistently and angrily denied the allegations — even under oath.

lance-oprahAnd he has persecuted former close associates who went public against him. “We sued so many people,” Armstrong told Winfrey — people who were telling the truth.

Did he use the blood enhancing hormone EPO? Testosterone? Cortisone? Human growth hormone? Illegal blood transfusions and other blood doping?

Armstrong answered “yes” on all counts in the first installment of a two-part interview that aired Thursday night. Part two airs Friday on Winfrey’s OWN channel and online.

The disgraced cyclist, who has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and an Olympic bronze medal, blamed no one but himself for his doping decisions, careful not to implicate others.

Armstrong: I was “a bully”

Armstrong described himself as “deeply flawed” and “arrogant,” and spoke often of how so much was his “fault.”

“I was a bully,” he told Winfrey of how he treated others who might expose him.

But Armstrong was not telling the whole story, author David Coyle, who wrote a book about doping and the Tour de France, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday night.

“A partial confession is sort of the pattern here,” he said. “Maybe this is Armstrong’s partial, and more will come out later.”

The cyclist denied pushing teammates to dope, an assertion Coyle countered.

“Tyler Hamilton gets a phone call: be on a plane tomorrow. We’re flying to Valencia to do a blood transfusion. That’s what happens,” Coyle said.

Armstrong told Winfrey that doping was widespread at the time and just as much “part of the job” as water bottles and tire pumps.

This attitude prompted Winfrey to ask again if he really didn’t coerce other teammates to dope.

Bill Strickland, an editor for Bicycling Magazine, praised Armstrong for the confessions he did make.

“I think it’s clear what we’re seeing here is someone learning to tell the truth,” he said.

Both men described the interview as a “therapy session.”

Appearing tense but sometimes cathartic, Armstrong told Winfrey it was a happy day for him to be there with her.

He described his years of denial as “one big lie that I repeated a lot of times.” He had races to win and a fairy tale image to keep up.

Armstrong reminisced on his storied past of being a hero who overcame cancer winning the Tour repeatedly, having a happy marriage, children. “It’s just this mythic, perfect story, and it isn’t true,” he said.

It was impossible to live up to it, he said, and it fell apart.

The lies and aggressive pursuit of those debunking them was about controlling the narrative.

“If I didn’t like what somebody said…I tried to control that and said that’s a lie; they’re liars,” Armstrong said. It’s a tactic he has followed his entire life, he said.

“Now the story is so bad and so toxic, and a lot of it is true,” Armstrong said.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which tests Olympic athletes for performance enhancing drugs, praised the interview as a “small step in the right direction.”

But it seemed to share Coyle’s skepticism about whether Armstrong was exposing the whole truth.

“If he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities,” said USADA CEO Travis Tygart.

Years of success and defiance, then a rapid fall

The scandal has tarred the cancer charity Livestrong that he founded and blown his endorsement deals.

Those who suffered for speaking out now feel vindicated.

They include Betsy Andreu, wife of fellow cyclist Frankie Andreu, who said she overheard Armstrong acknowledge to a doctor treating him for cancer in 1996 that he had used performance-enhancing drugs.

“This was a guy who used to be my friend, who decimated me,” Andreu told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. “He could have come clean. He owed it to me. He owes it to the sport that he destroyed.”

The former athletic icon conceded he’d let down many fans “who believed in me and supported me.”

“I will spend the rest of my life … trying to earn back trust and apologize to people.”

After winning various legs of the Tour de France, Armstrong’s sporting career ground to a halt in 1996, when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 25.

He told Winfrey that he then developed a “ruthless and relentless” attitude that helped him survive. But he carried it with him into his sports career, “and that’s bad,” he said.

He returned to the cycling world, however. His breakthrough came in 1999, and he didn’t stop as he reeled off seven straight wins in his sport’s most prestigious race.

Allegations of doping began during this time, as did Armstrong’s vehement defiance.

He left the sport after his last win, in 2005, only to return to the tour in 2009.

Armstrong still insists he was clean when he finished third that year, but that comeback led to his downfall.

“We wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t come back,” he told Winfrey.

In 2011, Armstrong retired once more from cycling. But his fight to maintain his clean reputation continued. Federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation, but it was dropped in February.

In April, the USADA notified Armstrong of an investigation into new doping charges.

In response, the cyclist accused the organization of trying to “dredge up discredited” allegations and filed a lawsuit in federal court trying to halt the case.

The USADA found “overwhelming” evidence that Armstrong was involved in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program.”

Armstrong objected to the claim to Winfrey, saying that although it was “professional,” it did not compare to doping programs in former communist East Germany.

Armstrong told Winfrey that the unraveling of his career is the second time in his life that he could not control his life’s narrative — the last time was when he had cancer.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. But is his image forever tarnished?

A cycling fan or not, we couldn’t find anyone on Hollywood Boulevard that didn’t know the name Lance Armstrong.

But whether they think he still has a place in the cycling world after reportedly coming clean on steroid use — that’s another story.

“I would say that he did not come clean in the manner that I expected,” Winfrey told CBS on Tuesday morning, a day after the two-and-a-half hour interview.

“I choose not to characterize. I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not,” she added.

“I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment.”

Once a revered athlete for his triumphant battle with testicular cancer and his dominance over the sport of cycling, Armstrong’s image has taken a major hit.

Just last October, he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles over allegations that he benefited from years of doping and receiving illicit blood transfusions.

Here in Hollywood, opinions on Armstrong are mixed.

“I thought it was just awful. Just showed his true character after all,” said fan Kurt Koller.

“He did something wrong, but he’s done probably far more good than he’s done wrong,” another fan remarked.

“I think it’s good that he finally came clean with it,” Jessica Milano said. “I don’t think he should have lied in the first place, but as long as he’s truthful now, that should be it, you know?”

Reaction to Lance Armstrong’s reported confession to doping is mixed.  Derrin Horton has more on the scandal.

(CNN) — The court of public opinion weighed in decidedly against Lance Armstrong, even before the broadcast of an interview in which he is said to acknowledge using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denials.

On CNN’s Facebook page, the opinions were passionate and pointed.

“This guy is a loser and a liar!!” Melinda Morgan said. “He is not sorry for what he did, he is sorry that he got caught!!”

Margaret Midkiff said there’s no hope of Armstrong reviving his career. “He’s lied to folks way too long.”

For more than a decade, Armstrong has denied he used performance-enhancing drugs, but he was linked to a doping scandal by nearly a dozen other former cyclists who have admitted to doping.

But Oprah Winfrey appeared to confirlancearmstrongm Tuesday on “CBS This Morning” that Armstrong acknowledges having used performance-enhancing drugs in the interview which will air across two nights.

After CBS, like other media, reported that Armstrong admitted using banned substances, Winfrey said she was surprised to see that not long after the interview, news of what he said had “already been confirmed.”

Winfrey did not describe Armstrong’s statements in detail, and has not released clips or quotes.

She said the former cyclist was forthcoming in an exhausting and intense interview taped in Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, Texas.

“We were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers,” she said, adding that “he did not come clean in the manner that I expected.” She didn’t elaborate.

Some media outlets have reported that Armstrong has been strongly considering the possibility of a confession, possibly as a way to stem the tide of fleeing sponsors and as part of a long-term comeback plan.

Cycling fan and CNN iReporter Beverlee Ring said she has “mixed feelings” about the Winfrey interview.

He should apologize and do whatever it takes to begin the healing,” she said. “Now is when the real work begins for Lance.”

But Gretta Michellé said it’s too late for redemption.

“He had the opportunity to be honest from the beginning and he should have,” she posted on the Facebook page. “Winning was more important.”

Armstrong’s admission is a sharp about-face after more than a decade of vehemently denying he cheated en route to winning a record seven Tour de France titles.

Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, stripped the titles from Armstrong following a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that found widespread evidence of Armstrong’s involvement in a sophisticated doping program.

The interview will air over two nights, beginning at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Winfrey has promised a “no-holds-barred” interview, with no conditions and no payment made to Armstrong.

“I hope the ratings are (a) record low on that show,” Matthew Black said in a Facebook comment.

Winfrey declined to characterize Armstrong’s statements, saying she preferred that viewers make up their own minds. She said the interview was at times emotional and surprisingly intense.

“I would say that he met the moment,” she said.

Word that Armstrong may have allowed some emotion to show through didn’t seem to soften many critics.

“Go ahead and cry, Lance … it won’t help you one bit,” Lori Polacek said. You “blew it a long time ago!”

Cancer charity: The trump card?

Some were willing to cut Armstrong a break because of his long-running cancer charity: the Livestrong Foundation.

“Who cares?” said Pedro Murillo. “He raised so much for cancer research, that’s more important (than) if he doped for some races.”

David Flowe said he doesn’t care if Armstrong was involved in doping or if he even confesses to it.

“The man is an inspiration for those battling cancer,” he said. “Quit being so judgmental of others especially someone who has done so much good for the world!”

Armstrong, 41, has been an icon for his cycling feats and celebrity, bringing more status to a sport wildly popular in some nations but lacking big-name recognition, big money and mass appeal in the United States.

He fought back from testicular cancer to win the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005.

He raised millions via his Lance Armstrong Foundation to help cancer victims and survivors, an effort illustrated by trendy yellow “LiveSTRONG” wristbands that helped bring in the money.

Before the interview with Winfrey, the disgraced cycling legend apologized to the staff of his cancer charity, a publicist for Livestrong Foundation said.

Armstrong was tearful during the 15-minute meeting and didn’t address the issue of steroid use in cycling, said Rae Bazzarre, director of communications for the foundation.

Bazzarre added that Armstrong offered to the staff a “sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they’ve endured because of him.”

He urged them to keep working hard to help cancer survivors and their families.

Banned for life

The USADA hit Armstrong with a lifetime ban after the agency issued a 202-page report in October that said there was overwhelming evidence he was directly involved in a sophisticated doping program.

The report detailed Armstrong’s alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions. The USADA said it had tested Armstrong fewer than 60 times and the International Cycling Union conducted about 215 tests.

“Show one failed test, just one,” Ron Berg said, challenging the wave of public opinion against Armstrong. “You can’t, because he passed them all. … They hate him for his success and tried to fail him, they could not.”

The agency did not say that Armstrong ever failed a test, but his former teammates testified as to how they beat tests or avoided them altogether.

NEW YORK  – Disgraced former cycling champion Lance Armstrong may soon admit to using performance-enhancing drugs, according to the New York Times.

The Times is reporting that Armstrong would admit to the doping violations in order to persuade anti-doping officials to restore his eligibility so that he can resume his athletic career.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last fall after a report pointed to “overwhelming” evidence that Armstrong was involved in doping.

He has previously denied the allegations.