The federal government doesn’t want Floyd Landis to testify in its $100 million lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. But Armstrong has made clear he will call his former cycling teammate to the witness stand even if the government does not.
“Landis will testify about these facts at trial — whether he is called by the plaintiffs or the defense,” Armstrong’s attorneys wrote in a new court filing.
The conflict over Landis is part of the latest dust-up in the government’s civil fraud suit against Armstrong, which goes to trial in November in Washington, D.C. The government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service and is seeking to recover damages for the Postal Service after it paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team from 2000 to 2004.
In a strange twist, both Armstrong and Landis confessed to cheating as teammates on the Postal Service cycling team but now are enemies on opposite sides of this federal court case.
Landis filed the original complaint against Armstrong in 2010 and is working with the government as a whistleblower or “relator" after the government joined his case in 2013. If successful, the government could get triple its money back — nearly $100 million — and Landis could get up to 25% under the False Claims Act.
Armstrong's attorneys said the government recently told them that it would "move to prevent Landis from being called as a witness."
“The fact that Landis does not want to testify is revealing — in particular because Landis’ performance at trial is a factor that courts (and the government) can consider in determining the amount a relator should ultimately recover,” Armstrong’s attorneys wrote.
In previous court filings, the government indicated it does not intend to call Landis, 41, as a witness at trial and had asked a judge to exclude evidence about Landis’ character and motivation in this case. The new court filings by Armstrong, 45, oppose that request and say his testimony is relevant.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper will rule on the dispute before trial.
"This court has made clear that the trial in this case will not be about whether Landis is a good person," said the filing by Armstrong's attorneys at the firm Keker, Van Nest & Peters. "Armstrong does not intend to attempt to make it otherwise. Yet Armstrong does intend to elicit testimony from Landis relating to the facts alleged in his complaint and the issues relevant to the disposition of this action. He must be allowed to do so."
The government’s lawsuit alleges Armstrong’s cycling team violated its sponsorship contract with the Postal Service by using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat in races. It alleges Armstrong then concealed those violations to continue payments, ripping off the Postal Service and causing false claims to be submitted for payment.
The government doesn’t want Landis’ character issues to distract the jury and says they are irrelevant to the matter at hand. But Armstrong’s attorneys want to be able to use evidence of Landis' motivations and character to discredit him as a witness, if necessary. They said that Landis' "financial interest in this case creates bias" and that his "repeated lies under oath in prior proceedings is fair game for impeachment.”
Like Armstrong, Landis is a former Tour de France winner who denied doping for years before finally confessing. Like Armstrong, Landis also has been the target of a government fraud case. Landis was charged with wire fraud after raising money from donors to fight a doping accusation that he knew was true. As a result, he entered a deferred prosecution agreement to pay $478,000 in restitution to the donors.
The government doesn’t want the jury to hear that.
“Here, the relator (Landis) is himself dirty and the government may have made the strategic decision that calling Landis would unduly distract from the case,” said Anthony Anikeeff, an attorney who handles government contract cases for the firm Williams Mullen but who is not involved in this case. “Because he is a relator, the government is stuck with him but may have little interest in whatever he has to say.”
Armstrong’s attorneys have argued that the Postal Service didn’t suffer damages because of the doping and instead greatly profited from the team’s success.
“Landis can testify about the apparent indifference of USPS employees to the doping on the team and how the team’s doping appeared to further the interests of the USPS,” Armstrong’s attorneys wrote.
In a separate court filing, government attorneys have opposed Armstrong’s motion to keep Greg LeMond and Betsy Andreu from testifying. Both have been vocal critics of Armstrong – LeMond as a former cyclist and Tour de France winner and Andreu as the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu.
“Armstrong’s motion to exclude the testimony of Betsy Andreu and Greg LeMond should be denied because both are percipient witnesses to conversations with Armstrong and events regarding his use of PEDs and efforts to conceal that use,” attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department government wrote.