(NaturalNews) Trouble for Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist who has had all seven of his Tour de France titles stripped from him, just keeps mounting. Now, it seems, he will even have to endure the ire of the federal government.
According to NBC News, sources said the Justice Department notified a federal court Feb. 21 that it will join one of Armstrong's former racing teammates in suing him over his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs during his major Tour races.
In essence, the report said, Justice is signing on to a lawsuit filed two years ago by one of Armstrong's former Tour de France teammates, Floyd Landis, who has also admitted to cheating during competition.
The government says Armstrong defrauded the Postal Service
In his suit, Landis is claiming that he witnessed Armstrong store, then re-inject, his own blood (a procedure called blood doping) to boost his endurance and overall cycling performance. He also says Armstrong twice gave him banned hormones before races.
In joining Landis' suit, the government's legal theory is that when Armstrong agreed to race for the U.S. Postal Service team some 10 years ago in the Tour de France, he essentially defrauded the government by violating its strict ban on illegal drugs, all the while claiming he did not use them, NBC News reported.
The government's decision presents a serious new legal threat to Armstrong, but the case being brought by the government is not open-and-shut. That's because legal experts note that Armstrong could argue his contract with the team's owners never explicitly prohibited blood doping. Also, they say he could claim he never signed any agreement directly with the Postal Service banning the practice.
However, if the government wins its portion of the case, Armstrong would no doubt be hit with huge fines; the Postal Service paid at least $30 million to sponsor his racing teams, said the report.
Robert Luskin, Armstrong's attorney, has already tried to preempt the Postal Services' case; in a statement made before the government went to court, he said the USPS had no losses that were deserving of compensation.
"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's Services own studies show that the Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship -- benefits totaling more than $100 million."
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder in January urging the federal government to join in the Landis lawsuit, cycling website Velo News reported.
A decision by Justice to join "in order to get to the bottom (or top) of this massive fraud would also be viewed by the press and public as necessary and legitimate," the letter said.
Armstrong denied he cheated - until the evidence caught up to him
Armstrong was accused for years of cheating, but he vehemently denied such charges. He finally admitted to doing so, generally speaking, in an interview with former daytime talk queen Oprah Winfrey.
"This issue of performance enhancers, to me, we're going to pump up our tires, put water in our bottles and, oh yeah, that, too, is going to happen. That was it," he said.
Millions of his fans did not want to believe the contents of a 202-page USADA indictment of Armstrong's career - accused him of being part of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
The evidence the agency accumulated against the entire U.S. Postal Service-sponsored team to which Armstrong belonged involves "direct documentary evidence including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong," said the report.