A federal judge has refused to block the US government’s $US100 million ($A130 million) lawsuit against Lance Armstrong, putting the disgraced cyclist on course for trial in a 2010 case stemming from his performance-enhancing drug use.
The lawsuit was filed by Armstrong’s former US Postal Service (USPS) teammate Floyd Landis.
The federal government joined in 2013 after Armstrong publicly admitted he cheated to win the Tour de France seven times from 1999-2005. Armstrong was stripped of those titles and banned from competition.
Armstrong’s legal team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Armstrong has also taken huge hits financially, losing all his major sponsors and being forced to pay more than $US10 million ($A13.1 million) in damages and settlements in a series of lawsuits.
The Landis lawsuit would be the biggest by far and the ruling from US District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington is a major setback for Armstrong with a trial most likely in autumn.
Landis, himself a former doping cheat who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, sued Armstrong under the federal False Claims Act, alleging Armstrong and his team committed fraud against the government when they cheated while riding under the Postal Service banner.
According to court records, the contract paid the team, which was operated by Tailwind Sports Corp, about $US32 million ($A41.7 million) from 2000 to 2004. Armstrong got nearly $US13.5 million ($A17.6 million).
The law allows Landis and the government to sue to get that money back and for “treble” damages, or triple the amount, and Armstrong could be forced to pay all of it. Landis stands to receive up to 25 per cent of any damages awarded.
Armstrong had been one of the most popular sports figures on the planet before his cheating confession.
His personal story of recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, while forcefully denying persistent rumours of doping, had built his Lance Armstrong Foundation cancer charity into a $US500 million ($A651 million) global brand and turned him into a celebrity.
The foundation, which removed him from its board and renamed itself Livestrong, has struggled in the aftermath as donations and revenue plummeted.