- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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A group of readers who sued Lance Armstrong, his associates and his publishers, for what turned out to be false content in his books, lost its case in a California court on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Morrison England sided with Armstrong and the defendants who claimed that they were protected under the First Amendment. In the decision, England said that Armstrong's freedom of speech rights superceded the case brought by the plaintiffs, who claimed that Armstrong's misrepresentations in five of his books, including Armstrong's biographies "It's Not About The Bike" and "Every Second Counts," were deceitful and fraudulent under California's consumer protection laws.
The plaintiffs, who were seeking more than $5 million in damages, can either file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or re-file this lawsuit if they amend their claims to more successfully argue against Armstrong's First Amendment rights.
"In my view, they can appeal or file this case again, but they'll have the same result every time," Armstrong's lawyer Zia Modabber told ESPN.com.
Aside from Armstrong, defendants included his publishers Random House and Penguin, his agent Bill Stapleton and the money man behind his team, Thomas Weisel.
Armstrong's admission of using performance-enhancing drugs on an Oprah show in January triggered many lawsuits, including this one. Armstrong recently settled a case brought by the British newspaper the Sunday Times, who sought to recover the roughly $500,000 it paid Armstrong to settle a libel case. Once Armstrong admitted to what the article alleged, that he used performance-enhancing drugs, it was understood that the cyclist would have to pay the money back. The settlement amount was undisclosed.
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