Armstrong settles Times libel case

Newspaper apologises after High Court rules that article alleged guilt of doping

Seven-times winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong has settled his libel case against the Sunday Times over doping allegations after the cyclist won an important pre-trial ruling at the High Court in London.


Armstrong had sued the Sunday Times over an article from 13 June 2004, written by Alan English, which reported allegations of drug use made in a biography, published in France, co-written by the paper’s then chief sports writer, David Walsh, and a French journalist, Pierre Ballester.

In a judgment handed down this morning, Mr Justice Gray ruled that the article conveyed to the ordinary reader an “accusation of guilt and not simply reasonable grounds to suspect”. If that was the meaning, he added, it appeared to him inevitably to follow that Armstrong’s conduct in so doing was fraudulent and amounted to cheating and that his denials that he had done so were lies.


The judge rejected argument for the newspaper that the words complained about conveyed no more than the existence of reasonable grounds to suspect. In consequence, he struck out the Sunday Times’ defence of justification.


Armstrong, who has consistently denied all doping allegations, said in a statement that he was “extremely happy” with the court’s decision.

“This judgment is the latest in a series of consistent rulings in our favour,” he said

“I always said that the article falsely alleged that I was guilty of doping. The article was based on untrue allegations which are without substance contained in a book published only in France.”

Shortly after the judgment, in a joint statement concluding the action, Armstrong and the newspaper said:

“The Sunday Times and Mr Armstrong are pleased to announce that they have settled their legal disputes. The Sunday Times has confirmed to Mr Armstrong that it never intended to accuse him of being guilty of taking any performance enhancing drugs and sincerely apologised for any such impression. Mr Armstrong has always vigorously opposed drugs in sport and appreciates the Sunday Times‘s efforts to also address the problem.”

5RB‘s Matthew Nicklin (instructed by Schillings) was junior counsel for Mr Armstrong.


Click here for the 5RB case report and full judgment.