Orders American to pay 1 Euro in damages
By VeloNews Interactive, with wire services
A French judge on Monday rejected a bid by attorneys representing Lance Armstrong to insert a denial of accusations of doping published in a book released last week. Armstrong, 33, seeking a record sixth consecutive Tour de France in July, has vowed to take legal action over the new book “L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong” which alleges he used banned drugs.
Armstrong’s lawyer Christian Charriere-Bournazel told AFP on Monday he had filed an appeal of the ruling.
“I am very disappointed,” he said. “I don’t share the court’s view.”
Charriere-Bournazel said he hoped the appeal would be heard by the end of the week or at the start of next week.
The book, by journalists David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, focuses on statements attributed to Emma O’Reilly, a soigneur who worked on U.S. Postal team. O’Reilly claims Armstrong used the banned blood booster EPO.
O’Reilly also alleges that Armstrong asked her to dispose of bags with syringes after the 1998 Tour of Holland and that in May 1999, as Armstrong trained in the Pyrénées, she was asked to drive to Spain to pick up drugs which she handed to Armstrong in a parking lot.
O’Reilly claims in the book Armstrong asked her to use makeup to cover up syringe marks on his arm at a Tour de France medical checkup in 1999.During a hearing last Friday Armstrong’s lawyers slammed the book as “sensationalist” and an attack on the rider’s character.
Lawyers acting on behalf of French publishers La Martiniere defended the book and argued that finding in favor of the plaintiff would signal the end of investigative journalism.
In the end, judge Catherine Bezio rejected Armstrong’s request, noting in her verdict that the published extracts involving the accusations “do not necessarily constitute defamation.” Armstrong was ordered to pay a symbolic single euro in damages to the defendants for “abuse” of the legal system, as well as cover court costs of 1500 euros.
La Martiniere’s lawyer, Arnault de Montbrial, told AFP that his clients were “very satisfied” with the judge’s decision.
Noting that neither Armstrong nor his staff had responded to the authors’ attempts to contact him for comment, he added: “The judge understood perfectly that by condemning Mr. Armstrong for abusive practice that the interested party had tried to respond using the judicial channel to the journalists’ questions which he had refused to answer.”
Armstrong has never faced any bans over doping and has always strenuously denied taking any such products. –AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story