For years, Lance Armstrong denied he had used performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tours de France. There had been accusations; he’d even been stripped of his titles, but still he maintained his innocence. That all changed last week when the cyclist admitted in a high-profile interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had used the drugs.
Armstrong told Oprah he didn’t “invent the culture” of doping in cycling, “but I didn’t try to stop the culture, and I’m sorry for that.”
Will he now be sorry about his memoir, “It’s Not About The Bike”? The book is the focus of a class-action lawsuit filed this week in California on behalf on unhappy readers. The suit accuses the cyclist and his publishers of “fraud and false advertising,” CNN reports. “‘Throughout the book, Defendant Armstrong repeatedly denies that he ever used banned substances before or during his professional cycling career,’ the suit said.”
“It’s Not About the Bike” was published by Putnam in 2000, when Armstrong had beaten cancer and gone on to win the Tour de France. The inspiring book was a No. 1 bestseller, and helped bring Armstrong’s story to a wide audience.
At that point, he’d won the race just once -- publishers probably didn’t expect him to do so six more times. After his second win there came another memoir published by Broadway, “Every Second Counts.” The class-action suit cites both books.
The suit states that readers purchased the books “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.”
Will the unhappy readers who have joined the suit be satisfied with getting back the $25.99 or so they shelled out for each book? Maybe not -- the suit also asks for permissible damages, which CNN describes as “a lot more than the price of the book.”
The suit is not unprecedented. When questions arose about the veracity of Greg Mortenson’s story as he told it in “Three Cups of Tea,” a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of readers who felt duped by the book and its sequel, “Stones into Schools.” It’s not much of a precedent, though -- that suit was dismissed.