Two former Lance Armstrong fans are suing the disgraced cyclist for fraud and false advertising over his book, “It’s Not About The Bike,” in which Armstrong claimed repeatedly that he never used performance enhancing drugs.
Rob Stutzman and Jonathan Wheeler filed a class action against Armstrong in California, seeking to recover the purchase price plus other damages because they say they never would have bought the books if they knew “the true facts concerning Armstrong’s misconduct.”
Armstrong’s second book, “Every Second Counts,” is also named in the suit, which alleges that the book sales were “based upon the false belief that they were true and honest works of nonfiction when, in fact, Defendants knew or should have known that these books were works of fiction.”
The former champion was banned from professional cycling last year for running what the United States Anti-Doping Agency called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after he decided not to contest the USADA allegations against him. After adamantly maintaining that he never used performance enhancing drugs over his entire career, and frequently denouncing or bringing litigation against people who claimed that he did, Armstrong admitted this month that he was, in fact, using various testosterone boosters and blood transfusions to improve his times.
In a taped television interview with Oprah Winfrey, he called his career narrative “one big lie” and admitted, “my ruthless desire to win at all costs served me well on the bike but the level it went to, for whatever reason, is a flaw.”
Eric D. Morton
Consumer lawsuits over falsified memoirs are rare, without a strong track record of victories in the courtroom. “In my opinion, the best legal argument for the plaintiffs is consumer fraud,” says Eric D. Morton, a business and intellectual property attorney with the Law Offices of Eric D. Morton. “The theory being that Lance Armstrong produced a book that was purportedly true (non-fiction) when, in fact, large portions of it were lies (essentially fiction).”
There are a few recent precedents for litigation over fabricated memoirs. James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces,” settled a consumer fraud class action by offering a refund to customers who bought his ostensibly-true book only to learn that it was mostly made up.
Then last year a judge dismissed a suit against Greg Mortenson over his books about school building in Pakistan and Afganistan, “Three Cups of Tea” and ”Stones Into Schools.” Mortenson had been outed as a liar by author John Krakauer, but a judge called the lawsuit alleging fraud and racketeering to boost book sales “flimsy and speculative.”
The Armstrong lawsuit will test the law on fraud and memoirs anew, with a new set of facts. “Consumers were induced to buy a work on the premise that was false,” Morton says. “Those facts could also support causes of action for unfair business practices and false advertising. I’ll be interested to see how the case plays out.”
Photo Credit: Paul Coster.