Judge backs Lance Armstrong in Sunday Times libel case


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A top libel judge today backed Lance Armstrong, seven-times winner of the famous Tour de France, in his interpretation of the meaning of an article at the centre of a forth-coming libel action against the Sunday Times.

The question of interpretation of the article has already been at the centre of preliminary legal skirmishes. Times Newspapers argued that the question of whether the article actually means what Armstrong says it does should be decided by a jury even though agreement has been reached that the final libel trial should be heard by a judge on his own.

However, Armstrong won that skirmish and the matter was dealt with today by Mr Justice Gray on his own. Now he has backed Armstrong’s interpretation of the piece.

He said that Armstrong claims that the 34 paragraph piece which appeared in the Sunday Times on 13 June 2004 under the headline “LA CONFIDENTIAL” would be understood to mean that contrary to his denials he had taken drugs in order to enhance his cycling performance and that by denying he had he was a “fraud, a cheat and a liar.” The paper denies that this should be interpreted as the meaning of the piece.

Backing Armstrong though the judge said he took the view that the article does “bear the meaning for which Mr Armstrong contends.”

“In my judgment the hypothetical ordinary reasonable reader would have understood the Sunday Times article as a whole, read once in conjunction with its headline, photographs and their captions, to mean that Mr Armstrong had taken drugs to enhance his performance in cycling competitions,” he said.

“If that is the meaning, then it appears to me inevitably to follow that Mr Armstrong’s conduct in so doing was fraudulent and amounted to cheating and that his denials that he had done so were lies. Accordingly I would uphold the meaning contended for on behalf of Mr Armstrong and reject the meaning advanced on behalf of the defendants.”




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