'Fraud case against Lance should be dismissed'

'Fraud case against Lance should be dismissed'

Lawyers for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong said on Tuesday he should be able to keep the sponsorship money he got from the US Postal Service during his record-breaking victories, despite his admission to using performance-enhancing drugs.

In papers filed in US District Court in Washington, Armstrong's lawyers said the Postal Service benefited from the sponsorship and they asked a judge to dismiss the federal government's fraud lawsuit demanding its money back.

"The government wanted a winner and all the publicity, exposure and acclaim that goes along with being his sponsor. It got exactly what it bargained for," the lawyers wrote. The Postal Service is an arm of the federal government.

The once-revered athlete is fighting to hang on to what remains of his reputation and his earnings after he was stripped last year of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling.

In February, a month after Armstrong admitted to doping, the Justice Department said it was joining a fraud suit filed in 2010 by Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate. Landis filed the suit under a federal law that allows whistle-blowers to report fraud in exchange for a reward.

The Postal Service paid $40 million from 1998 through 2004 to have Armstrong and his team-mates from Tailwind Sports wear its logo during record-breaking wins. At least $17.9 million of these fees went to Armstrong, according to the government.

The sponsorship contract included promises to obey cycling rules. In arguing those rules were broken, the government is asking for triple damages. Armstrong's lawyers wrote that despite intense international attention on doping and a French investigation, the US government never suspended the cycling team. Instead, the government renewed its sponsorship.

"It is now far too late for the government to revisit its choice to reap the benefits of sponsorship rather than investigate allegations of doping," they wrote.

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