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Friday, June 30, 2006
Armstrong settles libel case with British newspaper

Associated Press

LONDON -- Lance Armstrong settled his libel case against a British newspaper over doping allegations Friday after winning a preliminary court ruling.

The seven-time Tour de France champion sued The Sunday Times over a June 2004 article that referred to a book, "LA Confidential -- The Secrets of Lance Armstrong."

The High Court in London ruled in favor of Armstrong in a pretrial motion, saying the article "meant accusation of guilt and not simply reasonable grounds to suspect."

Later, both sides announced that a settlement had been reached. Terms were not disclosed, but it means the case will not go to trial.

"The Sunday Times has confirmed to Mr. Armstrong that it never intended to accuse him of being guilty of taking any performance enhancing drugs and sincerely apologizes for any such impression," the joint statement said. "Mr Armstrong has always vigorously opposed drugs in sport and appreciates The Sunday Times' efforts to also address the problem."

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 chief sports writer David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, a former writer for French sports paper L'Equipe, was published in France (in French) shortly before the 2004 Tour de France. The two authors and the writer of the article, Alan English, were also included in the lawsuit.

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 meant the newspaper would have gone to trial having to defend a position that it is accusing Armstrong of using drugs and not that it was simply raising "questions" about his conduct as a professional cyclist.

"I am extremely happy with today's judgment, which is the latest in a series of consistent rulings in our favor," Armstrong said about the earlier decision 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."