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Nearly two years after he was stripped of his seven titles in the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong suddenly faces an increased risk of losing something far more valuable — his personal fortune.

It all could hinge on what happens in the next few months, especially after an ominous message from a federal judge who recently ruled against him in U.S. District Court.

"This judge has laid it out in rather stark terms, with facts that are not pretty at all for Armstrong," said Tony Anikeeff, an attorney who has followed the federal government's ongoing fraud lawsuit against the disgraced cyclist.

With his income going down and his legal expenses going up, Armstrong, 42, recently scaled down his empire. He moved out of his dream house in Austin, sold his private jet and joined the herd flying on commercial airlines. But he could be on the hook for nearly $100 million if the government prevails in its civil case against him and his co-defendants from the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. Armstrong declined to comment on the situation to USA TODAY Sports but last year told cycling writer Joe Lindsey, "I don't have $100 million."

And that's not all: Armstrong could be forced to fork over more than $12 million in a separate case in Texas.

While Armstrong has settled or survived other litigation, none of the previous payouts came close to the lofty totals in play in the two remaining lawsuits. Both have survived furious attempts by Armstrong to have them thrown out of court, moving each into critical stages that could cost him — or save him — a big chunk of the riches he acquired on the back of his bike and boosted blood.

DISMISSAL DENIED

On June 19, federal Judge Robert Wilkins dealt Armstrong a stinging defeat — an 81-page ruling that denied his request to dismiss the government's case. This rejection wasn't surprising, but buried inside the ruling, Wilkins indicated the government has a strong argument.

Wilkins determined that doping by Armstrong's cycling team would have been a "total breach" of their sponsorship contracts with the Postal Service, which paid $40 million to sponsor the team from 1998 to 2004.

He also wrote, "As such, the Postal Service clearly could have sought restitution — repayment of the sponsorship fees — as a remedy … The Court holds that the plaintiffs have sufficiently pled that the defendants owed an obligation to pay money to the government due to the alleged breach of the sponsorship agreements as a result of the riders' doping."

Independent analysts who reviewed the ruling told USA TODAY Sports that if the government can prove its case — that Armstrong and his teammates doped and lied about it — then it stands a pretty good chance of winning. And because Armstrong and his teammates already have publicly admitted to both allegations, it might not even require a trial. A judge instead could rule in a summary judgment.

"I would think the government here would say Armstrong has admitted he doped, that he admitted he lied about it, why do we need a trial?" said Jason Workmaster, an attorney who specializes in government contracts for the firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.

The government sued Armstrong last year on behalf of the Postal Service, arguing it would not have paid $40 million to sponsor Armstrong's cycling team if it knew the team was violating its sponsorship contracts by doping. The government wants its money back and can ask that damages be tripled under the False Claims Act — around $100 million.

Wilkins' determination that the Postal Service could have sought repayment from the cycling team relates to "reverse" false claims, a part of the law that could doom Armstrong. In general, reverse false claims involve defendants who have made false statements to avoid paying back money they shouldn't have received from the government, such as overpayments from contracts.

Armstrong rode for the Postal Service from 1998 to 2004, winning six of his Tour titles during that time. Some of the first doping allegations against him surfaced in a 1999 report by the French newspaper Le Monde and were immediately denied by Armstrong.

With reverse false claims, the government has a "way of showing quite clearly that Armstrong and the company he worked for did breach the agreements," said Anikeeff, a False Claims Act expert for the firm Williams Mullen. "Now you've got a judge saying that (doping) goes to the core of the (sponsorship) agreement and that it constitutes a False Claims Act violation."

GALLERY: ARMSTRONG THROUGH THE YEARS

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SAVING A FORTUNE

So how does Armstrong avoid losing the farm?

It could depend in large part on developments over the next several months. In Texas, SCA Promotions — a Dallas sports insurance company — is scheduled to have its case against Armstrong heard by an arbitration panel in September. If the panel rules against Armstrong, he could be forced to repay $12 million in costs and bonuses the company paid him for winning the Tour de France.

Meanwhile, the federal case is entering the discovery phase, when each side gathers evidence from each other to support their arguments. Armstrong recently asked a judge to compel the government to turn over a myriad of documents to him, including all documents related to the Postal Service and Justice Department's knowledge of doping allegations in cycling.

Armstrong's attorneys have argued the case is too old to bring under the statute of limitations. If he can prove the government knew, or reasonably should have known, about the doping during Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France victories, then the statute of limitations would nullify the government's claims.

"That would be a Holy Grail for Armstrong," Anikeeff said. "If he can find it, it would certainly cut back the time frame in which the Justice Department could collect damages."

The government's position is that it didn't know until fellow cyclist Floyd Landis blew the whistle with a sealed complaint in 2010. It is pursuing claims that go back 10 years from then, to 2000.

Armstrong's attorneys also have argued that the Postal Service greatly benefited from the positive publicity Armstrong generated at the time and "got exactly what it bargained for" with the sponsorship agreements. Because of that, they say, the government was not damaged and Armstrong shouldn't have to pay anything.

In a court filing this week, Armstrong's attorneys conceded the issue of damages also might be resolved in summary judgment. "But if it is not, defendants are likely to introduce expert evidence in support of their contention that a doping cycling team had value to the United States," Armstrong's attorneys wrote.

FEDS SUBPOENA TRANSCRIPT

If Armstrong is found liable, a big question will be how much he should pay. He has argued he had no direct contract with the government and therefore couldn't have defrauded it. The sponsorship contracts instead were between the Postal Service and Tailwind Sports, a corporation that owned the cycling team but dissolved in 2007.

Tailwind Sports used the sponsorship money to pay Armstrong nearly $18 million from 1998 to 2004. The company is a co-defendant with Armstrong in the federal complaint along with cycling team director Johan Bruyneel — but Armstrong has the deepest pockets among them.

Wilkins said questions might remain about this issue, such as "under what circumstances should the putative defendant bear liability for the entire obligation or just a portion thereof." He added that more facts were needed to decide Armstrong's liability.

The fact-gathering will include Justice Department attorneys grilling Armstrong under oath in a deposition. It won't be fun for Armstrong, who also testified in a deposition for the SCA Promotions case in June.

Though the contents of his testimony in that case have not been publicly revealed, a recent court filing indicated more could be at stake for Armstrong besides money.

"Opposing counsel (for SCA Promotions) passed along a threat he attributed directly to the government, that the slightest misstatement by Armstrong during his deposition could lead to criminal proceedings," according to a filing this week from Armstrong's attorneys.

The government subpoenaed the transcript of that deposition days after it was conducted, the filing states. Justice Department attorneys responded that no threat was made about criminal proceedings.

Either way, Armstrong's answers could hurt him. After confessing to doping last year, he'll be asked to admit under oath that he concealed his doping and continued to deny it for years — a point that will undermine his argument the government should have known about his doping.

"The government's questions are just going to pound him that he misrepresented the facts on this date and on this date and on this date over and over and over again," Anikeeff said. "It's pretty hard to say the other side should have known to the degree that they should have been investigating it."

After his ruling, Wilkins was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the case was moved to Judge Christopher Cooper. According to court documents, discovery could drag on through next summer.

In the meantime, the government could try to reach a settlement with Armstrong, who has employed law firms in three time zones to deal with the two cases. The federal case could reach a point where Armstrong doesn't want to risk being on the hook for $100 million and the government is willing to settle for less.

"If the facts don't go well for Armstrong, he's got both the False Claims Act and a possible $100 million judgment, and he's got the arbitration in Texas for umpteen millions more," Anikeeff said. "At some point you run out of resources."

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