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With this forum overheating with posts, I don't know if this has been posted; if so, I apologise; if not, read on . . .

Updated: June 30, 2006, 7:43 AM ET
Armstrong wins preliminary ruling in doping libel caseAssociated Press
Cycling News Wire

LONDON -- Lance Armstrong won a preliminary court ruling Friday in a libel case against a British newspaper over doping allegations.

The High Court in London ruled in favor of the seven-time Tour de France champion, saying an article published in The Sunday Times in June 2004 "meant accusation of guilt and not simply reasonable grounds to suspect."

After reading the article, along with the headline, photographs and captions, any "reasonable reader would have understood (the article) ... to mean that Mr. Armstrong had taken drugs to enhance his performance in cycling competitions," Judge Charles Gray said.

The verdict means the newspaper will go to trial having to defend the position it is accusing Armstrong of using drugs and not that it was simply raising "questions" about his conduct as a professional cyclist.

The trial, expected to last a week, is scheduled to begin on November 21.

"I am extremely happy with today's judgment, which is the latest in a series of consistent rulings in our favor," Armstrong said in a statement. "I always said that the article falsely alleged that I was guilty of doping. The article was based on untrue allegations which are without substance contained in a book published only in France."

Armstrong is suing the newspaper for printing a review of the book "LA Confidential, The Secrets of Lance Armstrong" in June 2004.

The article reprinted allegations that Armstrong had taken performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong has denied all doping allegations.

The book, co-written by then Sunday Times sportswriter David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, a former writer for French sports daily L'Equipe, was published just before the 2004 Tour de France. The two authors and the writer of the article, Alan English, are also included in the lawsuit.

Armstrong's lawyer, Richard Spearman, argued that the article "contains a large number of assertions which ... point inexorably towards (Armstrong) being guilty of taking drugs."

Andrew Caldecott, the newspaper's lawyer, replied that any "reasonable reader does not and should not seize on the most defamatory meaning."

He said the article did not appear in the news pages, and raised many "questions" which were rebutted by Armstrong. This is enough to justify "reasonable grounds exist for suspicion but it would not justify a further elevation to a meaning of guilt," Caldecott argued.

But the judge said that interpretation would mean Armstrong's conduct was "fraudulent" and his subsequent denials would be "lies".

"The reference to the sport being riven with drugs would doubtless be in the mind of readers when they come to later passages in the article," Judge Gray said.

"I remain of the opinion that the Sunday Times article of June 13, 2004 bears the meaning for which Armstrong contends," he added.
 

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Well, Lance's victory at the preliminary hearing brought The Sunday Times to its knees. Paceline.com reports that the newspaper and Lance have now settled the lawsuit:

"Over many years, The Sunday Times has published stories relating to drugs in sport. On June 13th, 2004 they published an article about Tour De France champion Lance Armstrong entitled “LA Confidential”. The article was based on material contained in a book published in France in 2004 titled “LA Confidentiel – les secretes des Lance Armstrong”, authored by former Sunday Times sports writer, David Walsh. The article contained some of the allegations made in that book.

The article was understood by Lance Armstrong, who has always maintained that he has never taken performance enhancing drugs, and others, to mean that The Sunday Times was actually accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs and that he was in consequence a cheat. Mr Armstrong, who recovered from life threatening testicular cancer and later won a record seven consecutive Tour de France races, commenced libel proceedings against The Sunday Times in London, as well as proceedings in France against the author and publisher.

Armstrong, who retired in 2005, is now devoting virtually all his time and energy to the improvement of care and treatment of cancer patients and survivors, as well as funding for cancer research.

The Sunday Times and Mr. Armstrong are pleased to announce that they have settled their legal disputes. The Sunday Times has confirmed to Mr. Armstrong that it never intended to accuse him of being guilty of taking any performanceenhancing drugs and sincerely apologized for any such impression. Mr. Armstrong has always vigorously opposed drugs in sport and appreciates The Sunday Times’ efforts to also address the problem."
 
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