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US sues Lance Armstrong for fraud

The US Department of Justice has filed a suit against Lance Armstrong for lying about a doping scheme which helped him win seven Tour de France titles. The fallen cyclist could owe over $150 million (115 million euros).

The US government filed its formal complaint against Armstrong on Tuesday, alleging that the cycling star and his teammates from Talewind Sports had defrauded their sponsor, the United States Postal Service (USPS) between 1998 and 2004. An elaborate doping program allowed Armstrong and his team to lead world cycling without detection from anti-doping agencies for years, the suit claimed.

"Defendants were unjustly enriched to the extent of the payments and other benefits they received from the USPS, either directly or indirectly," the suit said.

The Postal Service paid the team about $40 million over the six year period. Armstrong collected an annual salary of nearly $18 million. If found guilty, Armstrong could reportedly owe up to three times that amount.

"Because the defendants' misconduct undermined the value of the sponsorship to the USPS, the United States suffered damages in that it did not receive the value of the services for which it bargained," the complaint said.

Following years of denying doping allegations, the US Anti-Doping Agency has found Armstrong guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. In 2012, it stripped the seven-time Tour de France winner of his titles and banned him from the sport for life.

In January, Armstrong explained how he lied without detection during his winning streak in detail during an interview with US television personality, Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong's attorney Elliot Peters refuted the "opportunistic and insincere" allegations on Tuesday.

"The US Postal Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship of the cycling team. The USPS was never the victim of fraud," said Peters in a statement. "Lance Armstrong rode his heart out for the USPS team, and gave the brand tremendous exposure during the sponsorship years."

kms/ccp (AFP, Reuters)