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The Department of Justice leaned hard on Lance Armstrong’s attorneys during the latest round in court, asking for email correspondences between Lance Armstrong and previous associates, such as investment banker and USPS team backer Thom Weisel and former coach Michele Ferrari.
As reported by USA Today, the two sides are now quarreling over what documents are relevant and how best to sift through the correspondences.
The government is seeking communications between Armstrong and 14 specific individuals, which it said Armstrong failed to produce to its satisfaction. The two sides have sparred in court filings and lately in a conference call, illustrating the high stakes of the federal government’s case against the former seven-time Tour de France winner, whose titles were stripped due to PED use.
“Our position — and I repeat it for the record — is we need a set of search terms from the government,” Armstrong attorney Sharif Jacob told the government’s lawyers, according to a transcript. “Why don’t you send them over so we can consider them?”
DOJ lawyer David Finkelstein responded, “That is repetitious, because I just said our search term is Mr. Weisel’s email address. You said, ‘I’m not going to run that unless you limit it further.’ Have I mischaracterized your position?”
That tenor remains common between the parties in the case, who routinely complain about each other. Armstrong’s lawyers, meanwhile, still attest the government, which funded the U.S. Postal Service teams, was not actually damaged by the scandal.
Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate who brought the initial whistleblower suit against Armstrong in 2010 and also admitted to doping for a large amount of his career, stands to benefit from the lawsuit. The government joined Landis’ case in 2013, bringing with it huge legal teams and, in theory, endless resources.
U.S. attorneys have attempted to assail Armstrong’s central defenses, which essentially amount to this: The United States should have known about the doping program at the U.S. Postal Service team, and that in its sponsorship of the program, the government got much more than it paid for.
In federal whistle-blower cases like that of the DOJ vs. Armstrong, the government can seek treble damages, meaning it can go after three times the amount it put into the government sponsorship. The government paid roughly more than $30 million to sponsor the United States Postal Service team and could therefore demand some $90 million.