Times Newspapers fights Armstrong libel ruling

Times
Newspapers has gone to the Court of Appeal in its libel battle with
champion US cyclist Lance Armstrong over drug allegations.

The
“Reynolds” libel defence – that information published in the public
interest should be regarded as privileged – was put to the test in the
hearing.

The defence has failed twice in libel cases in the past
12 months. The first occasion was The Daily Telegraph versus George
Galloway in which the paper published allegations based on documents
that suggested the Scottish MP had accepted oil money from Saddam
Hussein.

The second was when Armstrong successfully sued Times
Newspapers over a story in The Sunday Times based on a book by David
Walsh, which Armstrong said imputed he had taken illicit
performanceenhancing drugs to help achieve his five Tour de France
wins. Walsh was also sued.

The Appeal Court has reserved judgment on the case. A detailed ruling is expected in the next few weeks.

When
Mr Justice Eady ruled in favour of Armstrong at the High Court earlier
this year, he said the story was capable of bearing a defamatory
meaning.

But he said the Reynolds defence fell down partly because the paper did not put the allegations to Armstrong.

He
said: “I cannot see that the defendants could be said to be under a
duty to publish allegations to the effect that Mr Armstrong had
probably taken performance-enhancing drugs or that, given his prowess
in the Tour de France, he ‘must’ have done so.

“I would readily
accept, of course, that the use of forbidden drugs in sport is a matter
of public concern. It is a different question, however, from whether or
not they were under a duty to publish these allegations, about this
claimant, without at least affording him an opportunity of giving a
measured response.”

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