Lance Armstrong Trial Could Have Landis, Nike Confrontations

Lance Armstrong may ask former cyclist teammate Floyd Landis about performance-enhancing drug (PED) use by other cyclists during next year’s false claims trial against Armstrong, but attacks on Landis’s character aren’t permitted, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled (United States ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corp., D.D.C., No. 10-976, 11/28/17).

Armstrong also blocked the government from arguing at trial, set to start in May, that negative publicity from drug use outweighed the benefits of a sponsorship agreement between Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service, the court said.

However, the government will be allowed to discuss Armstrong’s terminated Nike Inc. sponsorship, and the harm he could have caused to that brand, Judge Christopher R. Cooper decided.

These rulings respond to the parties’ June evidence motions in a case whereby the government and whistle-blower Landis said Armstrong violated the False Claims Act by receiving money under a sponsorship agreement with the Postal Service by concealing PED use.

Armstrong Wins

Armstrong’s legal counsel may not call Landis to testify solely to attack his character or motivations in this lawsuit, but may ask Landis about drug use by other cyclists, which is relevant to a statute-of-limitations defense, the court said.

Armstrong also convinced the court that:

• he may refer to drug use by other cyclists to argue that the issue wasn’t material to the Postal Service’s decisions to make or withhold payments;

• he may refer to portions of reports the Postal Service commissioned about the value the sponsorship agreement provided to the government;

• government experts may not testify that Armstrong’s cycling team provided “zero” fair market value to the Postal Service; and

• government experts may not say that negative publicity from drug use outweighed the value of benefits the sponsorship agreement provided.

Government Wins

The court will hide from the jury how a possible False Claims Act award can be bolstered by treble damages and penalties.

The government also convinced the court that it may:

• present its theory of actual damages suffered to the jury, which asserts that revelations of drug use led to financial losses for the Postal Service;

• refer to terminated agreements between Armstrong and Nike, as well as other sponsors, to show that associating with Armstrong caused harm;

• refer on cross-examination to how Armstrong may have given false information to police following a car accident; and

• refer to potentially hostile content in a documentary called The Armstrong Lie.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Seiden in Washington at dseiden@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ennis at dennis@bgov.com