A Paris appeals court will rule Friday on an effort by five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong to force a publisher to insert the cyclist’s denial of doping allegations into copies of a new book about him.
Armstrong filed an appeal last week after a lower court rejected his bid to force publisher La Martiniere to insert a notice into “L.A. Confidential, the Secrets of Lance Armstrong,” with his rebuttal.
The appeals court deliberated the issue Wednesday and announced plans for its verdict on Friday – a day before the start of this year’s Tour in which Armstrong is seeking a record sixth victory.
The judge behind the June 21 ruling said Armstrong’s request amounted to an abuse of the legal system, and ordered him to pay the authors and publisher a symbolic euro1 (US$1.20) fine.
Lawyers for Armstrong claimed the book was a bald attempt to distract him from his quest for a record sixth Tour title. They vowed a defamation suit against the publisher in coming weeks.
“These two authors practice slanted journalism marred by personal animosity for Lance Armstrong, not investigation,” said Donald Manasse, one of the cyclist’s lawyers.
A lawyer for the publisher and authors said Armstrong could have made the doping denial in the book itself. However, Armstrong and his staff did not return their calls when they sought to speak to him, they said.
“The existence of the investigation wasn’t a secret,” said the lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial.
The French-language book, which hit French bookstores two weeks ago, was written by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester and relies in part on allegations by a former Armstrong assistant, Emma O’Reilly.
In it, she claims Armstrong once asked her to get rid of used syringes and to give him makeup to conceal needle marks on his right arm. She acknowledged that she didn’t know what was in the syringes.
Armstrong has denounced the book’s claims as “absolutely untrue” and says he has never taken drugs to enhance his performance.
Armstrong, 32, left his home in Spain on Wednesday and flew by private jet to Liege, Belgium, where the Tour begins on Saturday, a spokesman for his U.S. Postal Service team said.
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