A Story Quashed: One small example of Lance Armstrong’s reach
Editor’s Note: I’ve previously made the case that endemic cycling publications were ill-equipped to chase the full-scope of the allegations against Lance Armstrong. Contributor Charles Pelkey told me of a piece he wrote that was first published on VeloNews.com in February 2009. The piece was a minor news update on a lawsuit filed in a British court by Betsy Andreu, wife of former U.S. Postal rider, Frankie Andreu. Within minutes of it being posted, Armstrong contacted management at the magazine and said that if the story were to remain on the site he would deny access to himself and his team by any member of VeloNews staff during the upcoming Tour of California. The story was subsequently pulled.
It’s a relatively benign story, reported in other media outlets, but the incident illustrates the hurdles the media faced in dealing with Armstrong.
British paper reaches settlement with Betsy Andreu
Britain’s Guardian newspaper has reached an out-of-court settlement with American Betsy Andreu over comments Lance Armstrong made about her in November.
By Charles Pelkey
February 14, 2009
The wife of former U.S. Postal rider Frankie Andreu has reached an out-of-court settlement with Britain’s Guardian newspaper in a libel case stemming from comments Lance Armstrong made about her in a November interview with reporter Donald McRae.
In the interview, McRae suggested that Betsy Andreu had lied about a now-infamous conversation Armstrong is said to have had with doctors treating him for cancer in 1996, in which she alleged that he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. McRae wrote about Andreu’s allegation using a transition sentence that began “other people, apparently, also lied about Armstrong.”
That portion of the story was followed by a quote from Armstrong who recommended that the interviewer “go online and, to this day, Betsy blogs 24 hours a day about me. If that ain’t sick, what is?”
Following the November publication of the article, Andreu began legal action against the paper, demanding an apology, the opportunity to publish a response and damages, to be awarded to charities of her choice.
In a January letter to Andreu and her attorneys both in the U.S. and Great Britain, the paper acknowledged the validity of the claim and agreed to pay her attorneys’ fees as well as make $5000 in charitable donations on her behalf.
“It’s obviously not about the money,” Andreu told VeloNews. “I have asked that any cash settlement be paid not to me, but to charities of my choice: The Lennon Center, a local charity whose mission is to provide nonjudgmental counseling, material assistance and counseling before, during and after pregnancy; and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
“The whole thing is about getting the truth out and not letting people misrepresent who and what you are,” she added. “I told the truth and, in case you’re wondering, never have blogged … about him or anyone for that matter.”
The paper also removed the passages in question from an online version of the story and included an apology.
“We apologize to Betsy Andreu for comments made about her in this interview,” the paper noted. “She has asked us to clarify that, while evidence that she gave in proceedings about an insurance claim brought by Lance Armstrong is disputed, she honestly recounted what she believed she had heard.”
Andreu’s letter to the paper was published on Monday of this week.
Media attorney Razi Mireskandari, who represented Andreu in Britain, said he and his client are satisfied with the outcome of the case.
“”My client will not countenance the suggestion made in the Guardian article that she is lying when she says she heard Lance Armstrong telling doctors treating him for cancer that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs,” Mireskandari said. “She was in the room, as was Frankie Andreu, and they both heard what he said. They both told the truth on oath and no amount of denials or attacks will change their testimony. The Guardian apologized, regretted suggesting otherwise and paid an agreed sum to charities of my client’s choice and her legal costs.”
Calls to attorneys representing the Guardian had not been returned as of the time this story was originally posted.