Armstrong wins prologue to Sunday Times libel trial

Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong emerged victorious in a Court of Appeal fight over whether a judge sitting on his own or a jury should hear a key part of his pending libel trial with The Sunday Times.

The Sunday Times had challenged a ruling made last December by High Court judge Mr Justice Eady that a preliminary hearing of the meaning of the article at the centre of the case should be decided by a judge, rather than by a jury.

However, Lord Justice May, giving the judgment of the Court of Appeal and dismissing the appeal by The Sunday Times, said Mr Justice Eady had "made no error of principle".

Although the parties had earlier agreed that the action should be tried by a judge alone rather than by a jury, The Sunday Times had argued that the preliminary issue should be decided by a jury, as juries are better equipped to make a determination as to the true meaning of the article than "over analytical lawyer judges".

The case centres on an article in The Sunday Times on 13 June 2004, headlined "LA Confidential", referring to a new book by its chief sports writer David Walsh titled LA Confidential — The Secrets of Lance Armstrong.

Lord Justice May said that Armstrong claims that the natural and ordinary meaning of the article is that, "contrary to his denials, he had taken drugs in order to enhance his performance in cycling competition and by so doing — and denying that he had done so — was a fraud, a cheat and a liar".

He said that the defendants — Times Newspapers Ltd, Walsh and deputy sports editor Alan English — deny that meaning, and claim the article bore the meaning that there were "reasonable or strong grounds to suspect that the claimant has taken performanceenhancing substances in order to compete in professional cycling".

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