January 25, 2013
Of Dope and Dupes
by Dan O'Connor
As MobyLives reported on Tuesday, a library worker in suburban Sydney, Australia, posted a public notice that Lance Armstrong’s books — Lance Armstrong: Images of a Champion, The Lance Armstrong Performance Program and Lance Armstrong: World’s Greatest Champion — would henceforth be reclassified as fiction. It was meant to be a joke, but all hell broke loose.
There will always be some people who will take what was supposed to be a joke too far. On Tuesday, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, Republican political consultant Rob Stutzman and chief Jonathan Wheeler filed a class action suit against Armstrong — and several notable co-defendants, including Penguin Group (USA), Inc., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, The Berkley Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., Broadway Books and Crown Publishing Group — alleging “unfair business practices, fraud, false advertising and deceit.”
Al.com reported this morning that the suit has already been joined by more than 100 plaintiffs seeking more than $5 million in damages; examiner.com notes that the suit seeks attorney’s fees and refunds “for California customers who purchased the book.” (italics added)
No doubt other suits in other states will follow.
Random House faced similar legal troubles after questions about the veracity of James Frey’s memoir-cum-novel A Million Little Pieces prompted lawsuits from disillusioned readers. In 2006 the suits were settled when Random House agreed to refund the price of the books.
According to Tuesday’s filing, quoted in the L.A. Times, “although Stutzman does not buy or read many books, he found Armstrong’s book [It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life] incredibly compelling …” He “read it cover to cover.”
Back in October, on ESPN.com, Tim Keown wrote:
It’s possible to draw a parallel between Armstrong and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who used steroids to become a champion bodybuilder, bodybuilding to become a famous actor and acting to become the governor of California. Then, later in life, he had the audacity to preach to kids about the dangers of steroid use. Rarely does irony arrive stacked that high.
How about this? Rob Stutzman was Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.