By Laura Weislo
A British newspaper could face legal action over an interview with Lance Armstrong which was published this week, Cyclingnews learned Friday. Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu, felt the November 18 article published in The Guardian had labeled her as a liar, and has hired a lawyer in response.
In the interview, Armstrong responded to questions about the Andreus' testimony that they heard him admit to using banned substances during his treatment for cancer in 1996.
The article's author, Donald McRae, used the sentence, "Other people, apparently, also lied about Armstrong" directly preceding the discussion of the Andreus' deposition. The phrase followed a paragraph where Armstrong is asked if Emma O'Reilly, his former soigneur, had lied when she made claims that he had asked her to dispose of used syringes of EPO. The line has since been removed from The Guardian's online version of the interview.
Betsy Andreu's lawyer, Adam Paskoff, told Cyclingnews that they are "exploring legal options" against the newspaper. "What we object to are inferences that she had lied under oath."
"They responded to our complaints [by removing the line]," Paskoff said, "But we are still waiting to hear from the Guardian's legal department." He added that they find the use of the sentence in a story which is not an opinion piece to be libelous, and they are currently assessing potential damages from the article.
In 1996, Betsy and Frankie Andreu were present in a hospital conference room where Armstrong, having just had treatment for cancer, is alleged to have admitted to his doctors to taking banned doping products. Ten years later, the pair were called to testify under oath at a civil suit between Armstrong and SCA Promotions, an underwriter who was refusing to pay a $5 million bonus for his sixth Tour victory because of allegations Armstrong had used banned substances in order to win.
The Andreus testified at the hearing that they heard Armstrong admit to taking a list of substances: growth hormone, cortisone, EPO, steroids and testosterone to his doctors. In the same case, Armstrong's primary doctor submitted an affidavit that he had never seen any evidence that Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs, and Armstrong himself denied having ever made such an admission. He won $7.5 million in the SCA lawsuit, although SCA maintained that this was only due to a poorly worded contract, and not because Armstrong had proven that he did not cheat.
In The Guardian interview, Armstrong recalls the lawsuit, saying of Betsy Andreu, "Her husband lived, trained and raced with me and he said, under oath, 'I have never seen Lance take performance-enhancing drugs'. But go online and, to this day, Betsy blogs 24 hours a day about me. If that ain't sick, what is?'"
The Andreus responded to those claims, strongly denying that Betsy had ever written a blog. "This kind of lazy, inaccurate and sloppy journalism has to stop," they told Cyclingnews, and clarified that both had testified under oath to hearing Armstrong admit to doping. "We are trying to protect ourselves because we are sick of being portrayed as liars. We told the truth in our testimonies."