AUSTIN, Texas — The federal government is going after Lance Armstrong’s money. As much as it can get.
The Justice Department unveiled its formal complaint against Armstrong on Tuesday, saying the cyclist violated his contract with the U.S. Postal Service and was “unjustly enriched” while cheating to win the Tour de France.
The government had previously announced it would join a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis under the federal False Claims Act. Tuesday was the deadline to file its formal complaint.
The Postal Service paid about $40 million to be the title sponsor of Armstrong’s teams for six of his seven Tour de France victories. The filing in U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., says the USPS paid Armstrong $17 million from 1998-2004.
The lawsuit also names former team Armstrong team director Johan Bruyneel and team management company Tailwind Sports as defendants.
“Defendants were unjustly enriched to the extent of the payments and other benefits they received from the USPS, either directly or indirectly,” the complaint said.
The financial costs for Armstrong and Bruyneel could be high. The government said it would seek triple damages assessed by the jury. Armstrong has been dropped by his personal sponsors and left the cancer-fighting foundation he started in 1997.
Armstrong had previously tried to negotiate a settlement, but those talks fell through before the government announced it would join the Landis lawsuit. Settlement talks could resume as the case proceeds to trial.
Armstrong, who in January admitted using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denials, has argued that the Postal Service’s endorsement of his team earned the government agency far more than it paid him.