AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong’s legal team argued Tuesday that his Tour de France victories were worth far more to sponsor U.S. Postal Service than they were to him as it detailed part of his defense against a fraud lawsuit filed by the federal government.
In documents filed in federal court, Armstrong’s lawyers said the Postal Service’s own reviews of its contracts estimated their value at up to $140 million in global exposure in the form of public relations, revenue and product sales. The documents also include a June 2000 presentation to the Postal Service Board of Governors that showed sales spiked $8 million in 1999, the year Armstrong won the first of seven consecutive Tour de France titles.
Armstrong’s former teammate, Floyd Landis, sued Armstrong in 2010. The federal government joined the case in 2013 after he confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during most of his career. The government wants to recover nearly $40 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor his team and damages in the case could soar into the $100 million range.
The court filing came as Armstrong and the government feud over interviewing potential witnesses. Armstrong’s team wants to interview Postal Service employees about the sponsorship deal and what suspicions they had about doping, while simultaneously fighting the government’s attempts to depose Armstrong’s girlfriend, Anna Hansen.
The sponsorship paid for itself “many times over,” Armstrong’s attorneys argue, noting that Postal’s commissioned studies from 2001 to 2004 found the contract was worth about $140 million in exposure in the U.S. and overseas.
Armstrong has long held out the consultant reports as a key element to defense, but the latest filings included new documents found in his legal team’s probe of government records. For example, the 2000 presentation noted that Armstrong’s 1999 win had given the Postal Service a morale boost to overcome negative stereotypes of mail carriers portrayed on the television shows “Cheers” and “Seinfeld.”
Another document, a talking points memo for a 2003 Postal Service news conference, said the sponsorship “may be one of the most effective public relations ventures the Postal Service, and for that matter, any other global service agency, has ever undertaken.”
Armstrong’s lawyers say documents also will show that in 2003 alone, the government earned $500,000 in retail sales from a store at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
But that was years before Armstrong’s cheating was exposed. The Postal Service ended its contract with Armstrong’s team in 2004, after his sixth victory.
Armstrong wants to interview potentially dozens of government employees in an attempt to show that the Postal Service was willing to sponsor his team despite allegations of doping throughout his career, which he denied until 2013.
According to Armstrong’s lawyers, documents produced by the government have shown that Postal Service employees were “well aware of extensive doping” in cycling and “eye-witnessed its consequences.”
Prosecutors are still waiting for the trial judge to decide if the government will be allowed to depose Hansen, who has been with Armstrong since 2008. They have two children together.
Armstrong insists Hansen knows nothing about the case, and his lawyers called a subpoena for her testimony harassment. Prosecutors say they should be allowed to question Hansen about his history of lying and noted an incident earlier this year when she initially took the blame for a car accident caused by Armstrong in Aspen, Colorado. He later pleaded guilty to careless driving.