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Murdoch's London Sunday Times May Take Legal Action Against Lance Armstrong

Source: Irish Times

Posted on 15 Oct 2012 by Neilson

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Lance Armstrong libel suitLondon's Sunday Times said it may take legal action against cyclist Lance Armstrong, including pursuing him for alleged fraud over a libel settlement, in the wake of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's (Usada) report labeling him a drug cheat.

The newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, is "considering taking action to recover the money spent on a libel case he [Armstrong] brought and to pursue him for fraud," said a Sunday Times spokeswoman.

Armstrong sued the newspaper and two of its journalists over an article that appeared in 2004 concerning the doping allegations. After a series of rulings in Armstrong's favour in the UK courts, the two sides reached a settlement, the size of which was not disclosed. The newspaper also issued an apology to Armstrong.

One senior source at the newspaper said the case cost it about $1 million.

There are precedents in the UK for the repayment of money won in libel suits. In one of the best-known instances, British novelist and former politician Jeffrey Archer paid back the damages he won in a libel case against the Daily Star newspaper. This followed his sentencing to four years jail in 2001 for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

In August, Armstrong said he would no longer contest charges brought by the anti-doping agency, which earlier this week released a report and documentation, including affidavits from former team-mates, accusing Armstrong of not only using performance enhancing drugs but imposing a "doping culture" on his team.

Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Armstrong, said he had no comment on the Sunday Times threat of legal action. Armstrong still emphatically denied doping, he said.

Fabiani rejected speculation that, in light of the anti-doping agency's accusations, US federal prosecutors might reopen a criminal investigation into a cycling team partly-owned by Armstrong, which was closed earlier this year.

A reopening of the case was "entirely implausible," Mr Fabiani said. "There is not a single thing in the Usada report that the US attorney did not have," he said.

Meanwhile, Armstrong's lawyer Tim Herman told BBC radio yesterday that the Texan cyclist may take a lie detector test to prove his innocence.

"We might do that, you never know," Mr Herman said. Asked why Armstrong would not commit to taking the test, Herman said that he didn't think it would make a difference.

"He's moved on. His name is never going to be clear with anyone beyond what it is today," said Herman.

The world governing body for cycling, the UCI, are yet to rule on Usada's report.

Armstrong, one of the worlds most famous athletes who is well know for his cancer-fighting charity work, had said he was a victim of a witch hunt and preferred to focus on his Livestrong foundation.

"People are fans, most of the people that I've talked to, this is their opinion, it is, ‘we don't care whether he did or he didn't'," said Herman, who added he would like the 26 witnesses who testified against Armstrong to take the lie detector test as well.

"A lie detector test properly administered, I'm a proponent of that frankly, just personally," he said.

"I would not challenge the results of a lie detector test with good equipment, properly administered by a qualified technician. That's a pretty simple answer."

Sport Team Sky have stated that they carried out checks on the Dutch doctor they employed and whose name has appeared in the Armstrong drugs controversy.

Geert Leinders was with the team until last week and a spokesman said: "Dr Leinders worked with Team Sky on a freelance basis and his contract has now ended.

"This summer, as promised, we looked fully into his work with us, interviewed him and talked to riders and the full medical team.

"We had no doubts about his work with us or his approach. Before employing him we also made checks, gathered references and he was interviewed by [sports psychiatrist] Dr Steve Peters.

"Over the summer we have added to the medical team, using staff from outside cycling, and we continually look for the best ways to work and to support our rider," said the spokesman.