A federal judge said on Monday he likely will allow a lawsuit to move forward accusing cyclist Lance Armstrong and his business partners of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service of endorsement money through Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs.
U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins said at a court hearing in Washington that he planned to rule in writing within 30 days on requests by Armstrong and the other defendants to dismiss the suit.
"It might get dismissed as to some defendants. I can tell you I doubt it as to all," Wilkins said. He was not specific about which defendants might still face claims.
Former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis brought the suit in 2010 under a federal law that allows whistleblowers to report fraud committed against the government in exchange for a reward.
The U.S. Justice Department joined the suit in February, seeking to recover at least some of the $40 million that the Postal Service paid from 1998 to 2004 to have Armstrong and his teammates from Tailwind Sports wear its logo during cycling wins.
Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times, but was stripped of the titles and banned for life from cycling in 2012 on suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. He admitted this past January to doping.
His lawyers argued in court on Monday that the Postal Service benefited from the endorsement deal because of the valuable exposure it brought, and that the suit was brought too late to meet the requirements of the anti-fraud law.
Other defendants in the suit include the owners of Tailwind Sports, a company that dissolved in 2007. The defendants who remain could be forced to submit to evidence-gathering by Landis and the Justice Department.
"This case has been pending for quite a long time, and one way or another I intend to bring it to a resolution fairly quickly," Wilkins said.
The case is Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corp, et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:10-cv-00976.
Image: Lance Armstrong
Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters