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"Defrauded" book buyers demand $5 million in damages...

Yet another Lance Armstrong lawsuit got underway in California Thursday, but this one doesn’t involve a company suing Mr Armstrong for millions. Rather, it’s a class-action suit on behalf of the people who bought his best-selling books It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts and now say they were duped, according to USA Today.

It’s Not About the Bike was the quintessential Armstrong fairy tale, documenting his early life and return from cancer to win the 1999 Tour de France.

That victory was fuelled by performance-enhancing drugs, and it’s the deceit about doping that’s at the heart of this case.

The plaintiffs allege that they were defrauded by false advertising of Armstrong’s books. They’re not complaining about the content of the books, because that’s almost certainly protected speech under the USA’s First Amendment, but about Armstrong’s promotional activities around them.

They are seeking refunds and damages in excess of $5 million.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England heard arguments yesterday from lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include a cancer survivor, Gloria Lauria, and Armstrong and his publishers.

“He cheated on bike races to sell books, and he published the books in order to cover up the cheating,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Kevin Roddy told Judge England. “We think they’re interwined.”

In a pre-trial court filing, plaintiffs’ lawyers said: “Lauria would not have purchased either book had she known Armstrong doped his way to ‘victories’.”

Lawyers representing Mr Armstrong and his publishers asked for the case to be dismissed.

“Courts have unanimously held that publishers… owe no duty to publish accurate information or otherwise verify the truth of the statements of their authors,” they said in court filings.

However, Kevin Roddy said: “It’s not just about the book.”

Mr Roddy argued that by marketing himself as a drug-free all-American hero, Mr Armstrong persuaded readers to buy books they would not have purchased if they’d known the truth.

The Armstrong story was a “fairy tale” Roddy said, and if readers had known that,  “nobody would have paid more than a penny” for the books.

“He engaged in commercial speech,” Mr Roddy said.

Commercial speech or false advertising enjoys less protection under the First Amendment than the content of books.

Lawyers for Mr Armstrong and his publishers believe it still applies. “The First Amendment bars any action here,” said Bradley Ellis, attorney for Random House, publisher of Every Second Counts.

Mr Roddy disagreed and cited as an example of less protected commercial speech a talk-show interview Mr Armstrong while promoting one of his books. He said it shows Armstrong denied doping to help sell books.

The defence lawyers say that the readers have not given a specific example of a false statement that caused them to buy Mr Armstrong’s books. His lies in talk-show interviews were not commercial speech, they say, but comments made in public forum “in connection with an issue of public interest.”

“How does [talk-show host] Charlie Rose even end up in his courtroom [as a topic of discussion]?” said Zia Modabber, Armstrong’s lawyer. Mr Modabber said no plaintiff even alleges they saw that interview with Rose.

Judge England asked Mr Roddy what would be the situation if Mr Armstrong had not promoted his books, but just lied about doping in them. “That is protected speech – am I right or wrong?”

Roddy replied, “Your hypothetical is interesting, but that’s not how books are sold nowadays.”

Judge England said he will come to a decision soon on whether the case should proceed.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

23 comments

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Wookie [242 posts] 3 years ago
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Please stop these stories I cant take it anymore  31

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andybwhite [250 posts] 3 years ago
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I feel damaged on 2 counts  3

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Colin Peyresourde [1748 posts] 3 years ago
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It's better than the incessant stories of cycle accidents and deaths. I wish road.cc focused a bit more on the positive side of cycling (i.e. road racing, club activities, cycling for good causes, pro-life etc) than the negative and political side. I'm getting tired of the solipsistic comments on the car vs cycle battle that goes on in people's minds.

I'm interested to hear how this progresses. Seems a little left-field. But it was all part of a grand plan to hoodwink us into thinking that Jesus cycles among us (he even had a second coming).

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ped [229 posts] 3 years ago
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Along with many other cyclists, I never liked Pharmstrong as a rider but it's his effect outside of cycling that I came to despise him for most, and I'm glad he's being called to task over his books.

My cousin developed a brain tumour and was given at best a couple of years to live. She read "It's not about the bike" and became evangelical about the book and about Pharmstrong, recommending it to friends and family who, just as she had, held him up as a beacon of hope: This guy didn't just beat cancer, he beat it and then won the toughest race in the world. What a hero! In a messed up kind of way, I'm glad that she never lived to see the truth unfold.

Beating cancer is a fairytale ending in itself.
Pretending that you beat cancer and then went on to win Le Tour 7 times is evil but hey, it sells books …  COTHO.

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jazzdude [74 posts] 3 years ago
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I can't agree with this. I bought the books but always suspected that he probably cheated as it was the way it was done back then. But this seems like the typical american practice of cashing in by suing at every opportunity. These people haven't lost out financially because they read his books and believed them.

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Not KOM [79 posts] 3 years ago
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Lance ... from hero to Pinata in just a few short years.

My heart really doesn't bleed for him though.

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TeamCC [146 posts] 3 years ago
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Armstrong is a lawsuit lightning rod, any lawyer with an angle to get some cash out of him is going for it. No reason not to, you don't lose much suing and the potential upside is huge.

This lawsuit won't go forward on behalf, the only person he may have been contractually obliged to write the truth for is the publisher who paid him. Otherwise this lawsuit can bring forth a whole load of book lawsuits, my personal favourite would be a lawsuit challenging which holy book has the correct God in it (Norse, Pagan, Scientologist, Catholic, Pastafarianism...). Exactly like this lawsuit states, it is not the content of the book as it is most likely protected by free speech, but the promotional activity surrounding it.

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 3 years ago
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ped wrote:

Pretending that you beat cancer and then went on to win Le Tour 7 times is evil but hey, it sells books …  COTHO.

He did beat cancer. He did win the Tour 7 times. He also doped. We should simply acknowledge all of that, rather than trying to airbrush him out of history altogether.

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SideBurn [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Surely the only people who will do well out of this 'case' are the lawyers?

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james-o [235 posts] 3 years ago
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I enjoyed reading one of his books while touring in France one summer and it added to my experience on the Cols there.
Now I know it was a lie. So what. I read stories when I was young and it didn't matter if they were true or not, I believed they could be and it's just about enjoying them at the time. Same thing, who cares if it was sold as a false truth. If anything it adds to the bigger story.
What's more sad than LA's lies? People who didn't know the guy feeling genuinely hurt and damaged by them to the point that they want to sue. There has to be more to life.. or a simple cash motive  1

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Colin Peyresourde [1748 posts] 3 years ago
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ped wrote:

Along with many other cyclists, I never liked Pharmstrong as a rider but it's his effect outside of cycling that I came to despise him for most, and I'm glad he's being called to task over his books.

My cousin developed a brain tumour and was given at best a couple of years to live. She read "It's not about the bike" and became evangelical about the book and about Pharmstrong, recommending it to friends and family who, just as she had, held him up as a beacon of hope: This guy didn't just beat cancer, he beat it and then won the toughest race in the world. What a hero! In a messed up kind of way, I'm glad that she never lived to see the truth unfold.

Beating cancer is a fairytale ending in itself.
Pretending that you beat cancer and then went on to win Le Tour 7 times is evil but hey, it sells books …  COTHO.

I agree with you, though I think you're last sentence struggles to articulate the rage and betrayal at the santimonious lies Armstrong created, and the zealous protective fanbase he created.

It is the fact that he built himself up to be this messiah for people recovering from Cancer, as if God willing, you'll return to a normal life, but also that you can be rinsed clean and be fresh and new again. It's also this idea that the process can give you a better perspective on life when he basically lied and cheated about everything.

Kimmage's article that links his cancer, and agressive spread to his drug taking makes me feel like he brought the cancer on himself (in the same way that persistant cigarette smoking is likely to give you lung cancer or heart disease). And so, as serious as it was, his claims about not doing PEDs for the harm they do following his cancer was an even greater lie.

Not everyone gets clear, not everyone goes in to remission, but it is also clear that it can have a significant impact on your life and outlook. Even if the rest of the your treatment does not significantly damage you.

I also feel that this retribution for creating such a zealous fanbase, who defended him fearcly as St Lance. Having cheated them, they now are taking (legal) issue with him. It's lucky for him that Texas doesn't go in for lynchings as much as they used to.

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Comrade [211 posts] 3 years ago
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"Its not about the book"....classic!

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badback [302 posts] 3 years ago
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You can still bu 'It's not about the Bike' on Amazon. Strangely enough it's still in the non-fiction section and there's no mention in the product description that it's all a big fat porker of a lie: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-Not-About-The-Bike/dp/0224060872/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1376047580&sr=8-3&keywords=lance+armstrong

I wonder if I take my send my copy back I could get a refund under the sale of goods act ?

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Supersix86 [2 posts] 3 years ago
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He does cycle amongst us, I see him on my way to work everyday! He works in Cycelwoks Leatherhead and even won a Cat 4 crit the other week. Who'd of thought it!!

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JeevesBath [177 posts] 3 years ago
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badback wrote:

You can still bu 'It's not about the Bike' on Amazon. Strangely enough it's still in the non-fiction section and there's no mention in the product description that it's all a big fat porker of a lie

Admittedly the "I do not take PEDs" is a lie, but many of the other elements of the book ARE true. He did love his mom, have a poor relationship with father figures, and compete in a lot of races.
Not excusing, just saying...

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james-o [235 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

I also feel that this retribution for creating such a zealous fanbase, who defended him fearcly as St Lance. Having cheated them, they now are taking (legal) issue with him. It's lucky for him that Texas doesn't go in for lynchings as much as they used to.

People over-reacted when creating the hero though, now it's just as OTT the other way. Anyway, not defending him here, just find people's reactions suprising.

As has been said before, it's not as if we found out that Angus Young mimes on stage. That would be utterly tragic..

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700c [954 posts] 3 years ago
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How pathetic. I have no sympathy for LA, but neither do I have any for the 'disillusioned readers' or their lawyers trying to profit from this.

Also, "he cheated on bike races to sell books, and he published the books in order to cover up the cheating,” 

Er - no, he cheated on bike races to win, he evaded the testers to cover up.

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stefv [212 posts] 3 years ago
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Um, the clue is in the title "It's *NOT* about the bike"!  4

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 3 years ago
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Well, this is America, and a Google search of ludicrous lawsuits tells us they could well win.
Does anyone remember that scene in "The Jerk" where Steve Martin has to write a ridiculously small personal cheque to everyone he has defrauded with his "Opti-Grab" device? Lance may yet get to keep his Thermos.

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Gotta Ride [19 posts] 3 years ago
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But they did lose financially by buying a fiction. They lost the money they were trying to pay for a non-fiction.

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dino [60 posts] 3 years ago
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Road CC... please write a story about that dumbasses who are trying to profit from their utopian fairy-tale that burst...

these folks probably wore yellow jerseys around during the height of USPS and Discovery and spent a ton of cash on LA merchandise that now sits in storage.

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dino [60 posts] 3 years ago
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the LA army... seems fitting that they now want to sue

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John Stevenson [251 posts] 3 years ago
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dino wrote:

Road CC... please write a story about that dumbasses who are trying to profit from their utopian fairy-tale that burst...

I think we just did  3