REUTERS / Mike Hutchings
Lance Armstrong's defense of the false claims lawsuit brought against him by former cycling teammate Floyd Landis is a breathtaking act of chutzpah: It is the government's fault that his sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service, did not know he was taking drugs when he won all those Tour de Frances, Armstrong argues.
In fact, the post office liked sponsoring Armstrong when he was doping, the cyclist argues, and "got exactly what it bargained for."
Armstrong made the argument in legal papers seeking to rebut Landis' allegations that Armstrong's doping, and his lying about taking those drugs, defrauded the USPS out of its sponsorship money. USPS paid Armstrong and his team more than $41 million in sponsorship in two contracts in 1996 and 2000, the lawsuit says.
The gist of Armstrong's defense is very, very clever — if you can get past his barefaced cheek.
He lists all the reasons why the USPS should have known, or did know, that doping was widespread in cycling, and on Armstrong's team in particular. Armstrong alleges the government ignored all that, signed up Armstrong anyway, enjoyed the publicity fruits of his victories, and only a decade later decided it wanted its money back. Armstrong delivered on every aspect of the contract, he argues:
The government waited for over a decade to file suit against Lance Armstrong for one reason and one reason only: It got everything it bargained for from Armstrong and his cycling team.
... It was well aware of intense national and international media coverage of the team's doping and widespread doping throughout the sport ...
The government wanted a winner and the publicity, exposure and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor. It got exactly what it bargained for.
Armstrong repeatedly argues that the government "did nothing" and "absolutely nothing" when it had knowledge of potential doping, and the opportunity to back out of the contract. The USPS even has an inspector general, backed by the Department of Justice, that it did not use to investigate, Armstrong says.
Thus, Armstrong concludes, it is the USPS's own fault for spending all that money on a cyclist who repeatedly lied about his drug-taking.
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