Sunday Times to pursue 'fraud' case against Lance Armstrong

Sunday Times publisher News International is considering pursuing disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong for fraud.

The company reached an out-of-court settlement understood to have cost the publisher around £600,000 in 2006, in relation to an article written two years before by reporter David Walsh linking Armstrong with doping.

On 24 August the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced it was stripping Armstrong of his seven Tour De France titles and handed him a lifetime ban from the sport.

A report published by USADA last week accused Armstrong of being the ringleader of the “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.

As well taking steps to recover the costs it incurred in the 2006 libel case, The Sunday Times could now go after Armstrong on fraud allegations.

A spokeswoman for The Sunday Times confirmed it is “considering taking action to recover money spent on a libel case Armstrong brought and to pursue him for fraud”.

In his original High Court ruling, Mr Justice Gray said: “In my judgment, the hypothetical ordinary, reasonable reader would have understood The Sunday Times's 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.

"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 were lies.”

Armstrong himself said the article was “based on untrue allegations, which are without substance”.

Walsh’s story contained doping allegations made by Armstrong’s former masseuse Emma O’Reilly.

Commenting on the settlement in an interview with Press Gazette, he said: “The pity was that we just couldn’t have gone from 2004 and really gone for it. We might not have waited this long for the story to come out if newspapers in the UK had been allowed to do their job properly.”

He added: “We’re in a country where someone like Emma O’Reilly felt she couldn’t tell the truth. And if she had been allowed to tell the truth, Lance Armstrong might not have won the Tour De France seven times and the history of sport would be different and better.”

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