WASHINGTON (AFP) — Lance Armstrong asked a federal judge to dismiss the U.S. government’s fraud case against him in a hearing Monday, claiming prosecutors missed statute of limitations deadlines to file.
U.S. district judge Robert Wilkins was expected to make a ruling within 30 days on the matter, but was not expected to toss out the case, in which the U.S. Department of Justice says Armstrong made false claims while accepting $40 million in sponsorship money from the U.S. Postal Service from 1998-2004.
Prosecutors say Armstrong’s admission last January in a television interview that he took performance-enhancing drugs while crossing the finish line first at the Tour de France from 1999-2005 violated the deal and opens the 42-year-old Texan to treble damages that could be recovered under the False Claims Act.
Armstrong was stripped of those victories and handed a life ban from the sport. In February, federal authorities joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate who himself forfeited the 2006 Tour de France crown for using banned substances.
Armstrong lawyers have argued U.S. Postal knew or should have known that he was doping despite his lies denying it and said Monday that no action could be brought beyond three years after that point.
Elliott Peters, Armstrong’s attorney, argued at the hearing that the government did nothing to investigate accusations against Armstrong knowing that French authorities had been looking into doping allegations against Armstrong as early as 2000 and instead renewed its sponsorship with an escape clause regarding doping publicity.
The Justice Department in September filings argued it had filed in a timely fashion after Armstrong carried out “arguably the greatest fraud in the history of professional sports.”
Lawyers for Landis made a legal argument to try and recover from $7 million to $9 million more in sponsorship money paid from 1998-2000.