Is Lance Armstrong SLAPP Happy?

Jan 15, 13

Lance Armstrong created a buzz online this week when he confessed to Oprah that he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs during his reign as the world’s top cyclist. This confession follows at least two lawsuits filed by Armstrong over the years against those who have made allegations about him doping. After the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) laid out a case that Armstrong used dope, Armstrong filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Texas (his home state) against the USADA, alleging that the USADA’s actions infringed upon his right to due process, and tortiously interfered with his contractual and business relationship with the international cycling federation. Ryan Metheny at the California Anti-SLAPP Project blogged about the lawsuit, noting:

What no legal commentator seems to have considered, however (as far as I can tell), is whether Armstrong’s lawsuit is a SLAPP. It certainly has some of the tell-tale signs, including most notably the suit’s questionable merit — the whole theory of the case appears to be premised on a vast conspiracy among the USADA, federal investigators, Armstrong’s former teammates, team managers, and medical personnel, and who knows who else. But does this suit seek to punish or chill the exercise of First Amendment speech or petition activity, as required for it to constitute a SLAPP?

This suit followed one filed by Armstrong in England against the Sunday Times for defamation, after it reprinted claims from a book in 2004 that he took performance-enhancing drugs. The Sunday Times eventually settled that suit for 300,000 pounds (now about $485,000) in 2006. However, the Sunday Times sued Armstrong for $1.5 million now that a federal judge has put an end to his lawsuit against USADA.

Now that Armstrong has confessed to doping, it appears that his previous lawsuits were merely SLAPPs trying to silence his critics at the time. Read Ryan Metheny’s full blog post here: http://www.casp.net/uncategorized/lance-armstrong-v-usada-lawsuit-a-slapp/

The Armstrong fiasco is another example of the need for federal anti-SLAPP legislation to combat SLAPPs.  Nearly half of US states still do not have anti-SLAPP laws.  Those laws on the books vary in strength and breadth.  This patchwork of state laws allows “forum shopping” by plaintiffs, who can file their SLAPPs in jurisdictions where anti-SLAPP protections are absent or weak.  Plaintiffs can also avoid state anti-SLAPP laws by filing a federal claim in federal court, or, in some jurisdictions such as Washington DC, any claim in federal court.  Federal anti-SLAPP legislation would protect Americans in all states and at the federal level from SLAPPs.

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