Published on January 27, 2014 | by William Thomas0
Lance Armstrong’s nemesis condemns UK libel laws
The journalist once dubbed as the “little troll” by cycling cheat Lance Armstrong has criticised the UK libel laws, saying they protect the rich and powerful, in a speech at London College of Communication.
Speaking at the 11th annual Hugh Cudlipp lecture, Sunday Times sports writer David Walsh chronicled the way he uncovered the truth of Armstrong’s doping on his way to winning seven Tour de France competitions.
Walsh took the audience back to where it all began in 1993 with Armstrong’s first Tour de France, and showed various video clips of Armstrong’s rise and fall after years claiming to the media that he was clean.
“A good story is always worth pursuing, no matter how difficult it is … As Marge Simpson said: ‘There’s no shame in being a pariah’.” – David Walsh
The talk highlighted how tenaciously Walsh fought to prove the cyclist’s guilt and in turn how Armstrong successfully convinced the public of his innocence for more than a decade, often through the sports press, who he said were “not sceptical enough”.
Armstrong survived testicular cancer before going on to win seven Tours, but finally admitted in January 2013 that he had taken performance enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career and was stripped of all seven titles.
Although Walsh made it very clear that he does not consider himself “an investigative journalist”, his book LA Confidentiel and the countless articles he wrote on Armstrong and the wider doping community took countless hours of patient digging.
When The Sunday Times were sued over their coverage of his book, Walsh said the judges were “just out to suppress us” and the process was “anti-newspaperism”; the law suit cost the paper over £1 million and Walsh described the libel laws as “seriously deficient”.
Win at all costs
Walsh reminded the audience of a concerning remark Armstrong made in an interview with Cycling News likening himself to Walsh: “I was a win at all costs kind of guy. David is a win at all costs kind of guy.”
However, he disputed this view as he maintained that he always acted and reported with moral integrity, and unlike Armstrong was not a “cheat”.
Walsh felt though that despite the setbacks and lawsuits, pursuing Armstrong was something “that I did that I was really proud of” and that however the story unfolded he felt he had “done the right thing”.
Speaking of the recent Tour de France races Walsh believes that it is “cleaner and more credible”, however he believes that sports journalism should be less complicit and still has a long way to go.
Cudlipp AwardThe event also saw the presentation of the annual Hugh Cudlipp award for student journalism, which went to Jim Norton of the University of Sheffield for his investigation into cyber-bullying.
Norton, who received a cheque for £2,000 from the event’s sponsors, The Daily Mirror, was praised for his articles, including one headlined “March of the Cyber Bullies” which made the front-page of the Scottish Daily Mail.