WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department has joined a lawsuit against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong that alleges the former, seven-time Tour de France champion concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauded his long-time sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service, Armstrong's lawyers said Friday.
The suit the Justice Department is joining was filed in 2010 by former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping.
Settlement discussions had been under way between the Justice Department and Armstrong's lawyers. A person familiar with the negotiations says the two sides are tens of millions of dollars apart on how much Armstrong should pay to settle the case. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the private talks.
An Armstrong lawyer, Robert Luskin, said negotiations with the government failed because ``we disagree about whether the postal service was damaged.''
``The postal service's own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship _ benefits totaling more than $100 million,'' said Luskin.
Luskin said, ``Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly.''
The Landis lawsuit was filed under seal, but it will be unsealed with the Justice Department decision to join or, in essence, take over the case.
Armstrong was the subject of a two-year federal grand jury investigation that the Justice Department dropped a year ago without an indictment.
Throughout his career, Armstrong always denied drug use, but he confessed to having done so in an interview last month.
In October, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report that included affidavits from 11 of Armstrong's former teammates. These affidavits detailed how the teammates were supplied with EPO _ a banned energy-boosting hormone that stimulates red blood cell production _ by Armstrong and saw him inject, and how they were pressured to dope and bullied by Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel, the team manager. The cycling world's governing body then stripped Armstrong of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005.
Last month, the head of USADA lobbied Attorney General Eric Holder for the Justice Department to join the lawsuit against Armstrong. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has called the doping by Armstrong and the postal service teams a ``massive economic fraud.''
Under the False Claims Act, citizens can act as whistle-blowers and sue to recover money they believe was obtained through fraud against the federal government. These suits remain under seal until the Justice Department decides whether it thinks there is enough merit in the case to take it over.
The private whistleblower receives a percentage of any money ultimately recovered.
Armstrong and USADA officials talked on and off over a couple of months about the terms under which the cyclist might sit down for a long interview to tell all he knows about doping in cycling, but Armstrong said he would not cooperate.
A person familiar with discussions between Armstrong and USADA, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private, said among the topics was how much protection USADA could provide Armstrong in the whistle-blower case and against possible criminal action. The cyclist and his attorneys ultimately were not satisfied with USADA's offer, the person said.
In commenting Wednesday on Armstrong's refusal to talk, Tygart said that, ``over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so.''
If the Justice Department ends up taking the whistle-blower case all the way to trial, a key issue is likely to be whether the U.S. Postal Service _ the Armstrong team's sponsor _ suffered financial harm from the drug scandal.
The government must prove not only that the postal service was defrauded, but that it was damaged in some way.
Studies conducted for the postal service point to huge financial benefits from the sponsorship.
The government could argue that all of the recent controversy tarnishes the whole sponsorship and has damaged the postal service.
But the USPS sponsorship ended long ago and relatively few people reading stories about the current controversy are associating Armstrong with the post office. Armstrong's last sponsor for his final two Tours de France was Radio Shack, in 2009 and 2010.
The studies for the postal service state that the agency reaped at least $139 million in worldwide brand exposure in four years _ $35 million to $40 million for sponsoring the Armstrong team in 2001; $38 million to $42 million in 2002; $31 million in 2003; and $34.6 million in 2004.
Despite those numbers, Armstrong is fighting an uphill battle.
The government has a potentially strong weapon on its side: An argument could be made that until recent months there was an active, ongoing conspiracy to cover up Armstrong's alleged fraud. If the case ever goes to trial, that argument could persuade a judge to allow in a huge amount of evidence on Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs dating back to the 1990s _ evidence that would be barred from the government's court case as too old if there were no extended conspiracy.
MIAMI (AP) _ When LeBron James first heard about this streak of games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting, he did not immediately think about who was on the list.
He thought about who wasn't.
Wilt Chamberlain? Not there. Michael Jordan? Not there. Shaquille O'Neal? Not there, either. In NBA history, only Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone had put together five straight 30-point, 60-percent efforts _ that is, until James joined their super-exclusive club.
And now, he stands alone.
James scored 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting to get into the NBA record books, Chris Bosh scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Miami Heat wound up beating the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104 in a wild, momentum-swinging game Tuesday night.
``It kind of blew my mind,'' James said. ``To see how small the list was and for me to even be a part of the list, to start off, it's like, `Wow.'''
``Wow'' doesn't even come close to summing up how he's been in the last six games. He's shot 66 for 92 _ and take away a ``slow'' 6-for-12 start at Toronto on Feb. 3, he's made 60 of his last 80 field-goal tries, a ridiculous 75 percent success rate. He's scored either 30, 31 or 32 points in all six of these games.
His latest brilliance came in Miami's 1,000th regular-season win. But the only history anyone will remember was what James accomplished.
``I'm at a loss for words,'' James said. ``Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates.
``And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat _ any stat _ it's big-time.''
Dwyane Wade added 24 points for Miami, which wasted a pair of 14-point leads _ then put the game away with a 14-0 run in the final minutes. Ray Allen added 14 for Miami.
Damian Lillard had a game-high 33 points for Portland, which got 29 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 20 from Wesley Matthews. Just like the Heat, the Blazers also saw a 14-point lead slip away in the game, and then simply got shut down late by a stretch of airtight Miami defense.
``That was typical Miami Heat stuff,'' Lillard said. ``Transition, finishing strong around the rim, and LeBron picking defenses apart.''
Pretty good assessment from the rookie. For as great as he was, it was James' night.
``That's why he is who he is,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``The best player in the game.''
Added Wade: ``Obviously, he is doing something that is amazing and special.''
And on a night when the teams took turns putting together big runs, it was the Heat who had the last rally _ ultimately, the last laugh as well.
With the game tied at 99, James drove baseline on former Cleveland teammate Sasha Pavlovic for a two-handed slam that he punctuated with a long scream.
The Heat immediately responded. Matthews made a 3-pointer on the next Portland possession to give the Trail Blazers their last lead. Miami scored the next 14 points, and when James got loose for a dunk with 2:38 remaining, the 30-point mark _ and history _ was his.
``He played a very good basketball game,'' Spoelstra deadpanned afterward. ``That's all you're going to get out of me right now. He competes. He loves to compete. He loves close games. ... And he's leading us, not just with his talent.''
Bosh made a jumper with 1:55 left to end the run and seal the win, Miami's sixth straight overall.
Miami next plays Thursday night in Oklahoma City, an NBA Finals rematch before heading into the All-Star break. The Heat topped the Thunder in the first meeting of the clubs this season, winning in Miami on Christmas Day.
``It's a game we'll look forward to,'' Wade said.
A glance at the halftime boxscore _ Portland 59, Miami 58 _ would have suggested the opening two quarters were closely contested, back-and-forth basketball.
Miami started with a flurry, hitting its first seven shots and doing so with James collecting five assists in the game's first 3:52. The Heat led 14-5 after that burst, and were still shooting 75 percent with a minute to go in the opening quarter.
They also were trailing at that point. The Blazers were doing anything they wanted on the offensive end.
``I thought it was a good effort by our team,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ``Miami's one of the best if not the best team in the league right now and they are playing at a high level. We matched it for about 44 minutes.''
More than matched it for a while, too.
Aldridge went on a personal 13-0 run over a stretch of nearly four minutes midway through the half, single-handedly seeming to turn what was a 29-24 Portland deficit into a 37-29 Portland lead. And another quick burst, this time a 10-1 run by the Blazers, gave the visitors what was their biggest lead, 57-43 with 4:48 left in the half.
Take away Miami's sizzling start, and the Blazers outscored the Heat 52-29 over a huge swath of the first half. Miami answered with a 34-12 run, rebuilding a 14-point lead midway through third.
And after Portland had one more rally, it was all Miami in the final minutes.
NOTES: It was the 25th time Lillard scored more than 20 points this season, adding to his rookie-of-the-year credentials. ... Aldridge has at least 11 field goals in each of his past five games. ... The Heat were without Mike Miller, the latest victim of the flu bug that has ripped through the locker room, and lost starting forward Udonis Haslem to a lower-leg contusion in the opening quarter. X-rays on Haslem's shin were negative.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ Wrestling officials called Tuesday's decision to drop the sport from the Olympic program an ``aberration'' against a founding event.
Known by its French initials FILA, the sport's governing body said it was ``greatly astonished'' by the IOC executive board decision.
Past and present Olympic champions in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling called the rejection ``mind-boggling'' and a ``tragedy'' for the sport.
``FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games,'' said FILA, which is based near the Olympic home city of Lausanne.
A last chance at a remarkable reprieve to maintain wrestling's Olympic status from 2020 onward will come at a meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September.
Still, FILA President Raphael Martinetti faces criticism much sooner when his ruling body meets this weekend in Phuket, Thailand.
Russian wrestling federation leader Mikhail Mamiashvili, who is a board member, said FILA was part of the problem.
``I believe that Martinetti's task was to work hard, socialize and defend wrestling's place before the IOC,'' Mamiashvili said in comments reported by the Itar-TASS news agency.
German federation official Jannis Zamanduridis said ``a piece of the Olympic idea is dying with this decision.''
Wrestling featured on the inaugural modern Olympic program in Athens in 1896, and counts 180 member countries.
The sport also appeared to meet the IOC's modern requirement of ``universality'' _ with global appeal and competitive balance across the world.
``That's mind boggling,'' Khasan Baroev of Russia, the 2004 Olympic champion in the 120-kilogram Greco-Roman class, told Itar-TASS. ``I would understand if Russia had taken all the medals at the (London) games, but this touches not only us, it touches the whole world.''
With a total of 18 events for men and women in London, 29 different countries won medals. Russia and Japan each got four titles and golds were also won by athletes from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. India, Mongolia and North Korea also featured in the medals table.
Puerto Rico took home only two medals across 26 sports in London, including silver for wrestler Jaime Espinal in the men's 84-kg class.
``That was a great story,'' former IOC executive board member Richard Carrion told The Associated Press. ``I'm very sad (today) in the sense that that athlete, and that particular club, were from a very poor neighborhood.
``They didn't even have a regulation-size mat and produced three wrestlers that qualified for the Olympic Games. Let's see what happens in Buenos Aires.''
Russian gold medalist Natalya Vorobyeva, who won the women's 72-kg freestyle class, told Itar-TASS that dropping wrestling ``will be a tragedy for many people.''
``I think everything will be all right. Wrestlers will fight for their place (at the games) till the end,'' she said.
Former Olympic champion Cael Sanderson insisted his sport's appearance on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games program would not be its last.
``It might just awaken a sleeping giant here,'' the 2004 Athens Olympic champion in 84-kg freestyle told the AP. ``It's sickening, really. It makes me sick to think about it.''
FOX Sports.com - San Francisco 49ers tight end Delanie Walker's aunt and uncle were killed in a car crash by an alleged drunk driver just hours after watching their nephew play in Super Bowl XLVII.
Alice and bryan young my aunt and uncle was killed on Monday at 5 am after the super bowl by a drunk… instagr.am/p/VZbVLfBfl7/— Delanie walker (@Dwalk46) February 6, 2013
The accident, which included two vehicles, happened around 5:30 a.m. on the I-10, WWL-TV.com reported.
Walker took his thoughts to Twitter on Wednesday.
"Alice and bryan young my aunt and uncle was killed on Monday at 5 am after the super bowl by a drunk driver... We lost some good people they will be missed i love y'all so much," he wrote.
Nechole Thomas, 26, was allegedly driving "at a high rate of speed" westbound on the highway when she hit a 2012 Nissan Altima, which was stopped on the shoulder, according to state police. Both vehicles immediately caught fire.
New Orleans state police said that an investigation is ongoing, and they are waiting for autopsies to confirm the identities of the deceased.
Thomas has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, DWI and reckless operation.
"Im going to miss y'all but i know they are in a better place," Walker wrote.
DENVER (AP) _ Caleb Moore, an innovative freestyle snowmobile rider who was hurt in a dramatic crash at the Winter X Games in Colorado, died Thursday morning. He was 25.
Moore had been staying at a hospital in Grand Junction since the crash in Aspen one week before. Family spokeswoman Chelsea Lawson confirmed his death.
A former all-terrain vehicle racer, Moore switched over to snowmobiles as a teenager and didn't take long to rise to the top of his sport. He won four Winter X Games medals, including a bronze last season when his younger brother, Colten, captured gold.
Caleb Moore was attempting a backflip Jan. 24 in the freestyle event when the skis on his 450-pound snowmobile caught the lip of the landing area, sending him flying over the handlebars. Moore landed face first into the snow with his snowmobile rolling over him.
Moore stayed down for quite some time, before walking off with help and going to a hospital to treat a concussion. Moore developed bleeding around his heart and was flown to a hospital in Grand Junction for surgery. The family later said that Moore, of Krum, Texas, also had a complication involving his brain.
Colten Moore was injured in a separate crash that same night. He suffered a separated pelvis in the spill.
The family said in a statement they were grateful for all the prayers and support they have received from people around the world.
X Games officials expressed their condolences and said Moore, a four-time X Games medalist, would be remembered ``for his natural passion for life and his deep love for his family and friends.''
B.C. Vaught, Caleb Moore's agent for almost a decade, said he first saw Moore when he was racing an ATV in Minnesota and signed him up to star in some action sports movies.
Later, Moore wanted to make the switch from ATVs to snowmobiles and asked Vaught to show him how to do a back-flip. In two weeks, Moore mastered the difficult maneuver.
Moore's brother also got involved in snowmobiling, the close-knit duo pushing each other to become better.
Moore honed his skills in Krum, a town about 5,000 people 50 miles northwest of Dallas that rarely sees snow. Instead, he worked on tricks by launching his sled into a foam pit. After a brief training run on snow ramps in Michigan, he was ready for his sport's biggest stage _ the 2010 Winter X Games.
In that contest, Moore captured a bronze in freestyle and finished sixth in best trick. Two years later, his biography on ESPN said, ``Caleb Moore has gone from `beginner's luck' to `serious threat.'''
That was hardly a surprise to Vaught, who said, ``Whatever he wanted to do, he did it.''
Vaught said Moore didn't believe his sport was too extreme, but rather ``it was a lifestyle.'' He was good at it _ along with ATV racing _ as he accumulated a garage full of trophies.
Fellow snowmobile rider Levi LaVallee recently described Moore as a ``fierce competitor.''
``A very creative mind,'' LaVallee said. ``I've watched him try some crazy, crazy tricks and some of them were successful, some of them not so much. But he was first guy to get back on a sled and go try it again. It shows a lot of heart.''
X Games officials said in a statement that they would conduct a thorough review of snowmobiling events and adopt any appropriate changes.
``For 18 years, we have worked closely on safety issues with athletes, course designers and other experts. Still, when the world's best compete at the highest level in any sport, risks remain,'' they said, noting that Moore was hurt performing a move he had done several times before.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ Jerry Sandusky lost a bid for a new trial Wednesday when a judge rejected his argument that his lawyers were not given enough time to prepare for the three-week proceeding that ended with a 45-count guilty verdict.
Judge John Cleland's 27-page order said lawyers for the former Penn State assistant football coach conceded that their post-trial review turned up no material that would have changed their trial strategy.
``I do not think it can be said that either of the defendant's trial counsel failed to test the prosecution's case in a meaningful manner,'' Cleland wrote. ``The defendant's attorneys subjected the commonwealth's witnesses to meaningful and effective cross-examination, presented evidence for the defense and presented both a comprehensive opening statement and a clearly developed closing argument.''
He also rejected post-sentencing motions regarding jury instructions, hearsay testimony and a comment by the prosecution during closing arguments that referred to the fact that Sandusky, who did not testify at trial, gave media interviews after he was arrested in November 2011.
Cleland said the prosecution's closing was not presented in a way that ``was either calculated to, or did, create in the jurors a fixed bias toward the defendant.''
Sandusky also argued that charges should have been thrown out because they were not sufficiently specific, but Cleland said the lack of specific dates did not prevent Sandusky from pursuing an alibi defense.
``The defendant has simply argued the offenses did not happen,'' Cleland said.
One of the jury instruction issues was whether Cleland should have talked to them about the amount of time it took for the victims to inform authorities that Sandusky had abused them.
``No one who has had the slightest experience with child sexual abuse or given a whit of thought to its dynamics could conclude that failure to make a prompt complaint, standing alone, is an accurate indicia of fabrication,'' Cleland said.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys, including violent attacks on the children inside Penn State athletics facilities.
Sandusky defense lawyer Norris Gelman said Wednesday that while he had not read the decision, Cleland's ruling means an appeal will be filed to the mid-level Superior Court within the next 30 days.
The state attorney general's office, which prosecuted Sandusky, declined to comment.
Also Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill that aims to keep Penn State's $60 million fine to the NCAA over the Sandusky scandal within the state.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes State College, would require such fines of at least $10 million to be deposited into a state-administered account, and be spent on Pennsylvania programs that address childhood sexual abuse.
``It makes sense that it should stay here to benefit organizations and the children of the commonwealth,'' said Corman, who also recently filed a lawsuit over the fine, an action currently pending in Commonwealth Court. He said the money ``could do an extraordinary amount of good right here in Pennsylvania.''
Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, said the Legislature needed to act quickly.
``The victims were from Pennsylvania, the abuse was perpetrated in Pennsylvania, and the crimes were investigated and prosecuted by Pennsylvania authorities _ not authorities from other states, the federal government or the NCAA,'' Schwank said.
In response, the NCAA issued a statement saying it was monitoring the legislation, ``including examining whether, if enacted, the proposed legislation would violate both the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions.''
It had previously said 25 percent of the annual grants would be reserved for Pennsylvania organizations.
Penn State agreed to the fine last summer as part of a deal that averted a potential shutdown of its football program by college sports' governing body. The university has already made the first of five $12 million payments.
Gov. Tom Corbett has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA over the sanctions.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is a big football fan with two daughters, but if he had a son, he says he'd ''have to think long and hard'' before letting him play because of the physical toll the game takes.
''I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,'' Obama tells The New Republic.
''In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.''
In an interview in the magazine's Feb. 11 issue, Obama said he worries more about college players than he does about those in the NFL.
''The NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,'' Obama said. ''You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.''
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded Sunday, ''We have no higher priority than player health and safety at all levels of the game."
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo will miss the remainder of the season after tests Sunday revealed a torn ACL in his right knee.
Rondo was hurt during Friday's double-overtime loss at Atlanta and had been receiving treatment for what was originally diagnosed as a hyperextended knee. He was a late scratch for Sunday's game against Miami and was instead sent to a Boston hospital for tests.
The team revealed the severity of the injury Sunday afternoon and said a date for surgery has yet to be determined.
"We'll find someone that's already in our locker room who will step up," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers on how they will succeed without Rondo. "You can write the obituary but I'm not. We're going nowhere."
Rondo, voted an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference, is averaging 13.7 points and an NBA-best 11.1 assists in 38 games this season.
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson announced Thursday that the name of the team will change to the New Orleans Pelicans, beginning in the 2013-14 season.
"When we purchased the basketball team, it was a priority to change the name to reflect our culture, our community and our resolve. The Pelican does that," said Benson. "Our region has been hard hit in recent years and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to comeback, to fight and overcome. The Pelican symbolizes that. The synergy of this name, this bird and the future of our state and region are intertwined and in three, five, ten years from now, it will be not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region. We will promote healthy habitats, not only for our youth but for our community, our coast and our wildlife. The Pelican name will do that. It is more than a name. It represents our way of life."
The name was changed to the Pelicans largely due to its connection with the state of Louisiana. It has been the state bird for over a century and can be found on both the state's flag and seal. The team's colors will be blue, red, and gold.
The team's primary color, blue, is taken from Louisiana's state flag. The Pelicans and Saints will share the color gold, uniting the organizations, while celebrating the spirited life of New Orleans and its many celebrations (gold is also a commonly found color on the "crown" of the pelican). Red represents fraternity and is indicative of the blood provision of the mother pelican and the vibrant color underneath the pelican's throat. All three colors are found on the City of New Orleans flag.
The team kept the Hornets nickname when it relocated from Charlotte for the start of the 2002-03 season. New Orleans previously hosted the Jazz from 1974-79 until the franchise left for Salt Lake City and kept the moniker.