Here are all 59 pages of the class-action lawsuit filed against Lance Armstrong in Sacramento, California, this week, which alleges that both It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts are fiction rather than nonfiction. (Hard to argue with at this point, but that doesn’t mean this suit will end up being successful.) The claim, which is similar to an action filed against Greg Mortenson over fabrications in Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, claims that purchasers of the books were “misled by Defendants’ statements and purchased Defendant Armstrong’s books based upon the false belief that they were true and honest works of nonfiction.” The complaint says Armstrong attributed his success in the Tour de France to training, diet, and guts, when in fact he was cheating all along.
The plaintiffs are a pair of bike enthusiasts and (former) Lance believers named Rob Stutzman and Jonathan Wheeler. According to the Sacramento Bee blog “CapitolAlert,” Stutzman is a well-connected GOP strategist who worked as the communications director for Gov. Arnold Scharzenegger during his first term. Wheeler is a chef. Both feel had by Lance and the myth he perpetuated about himself.
“Although Stutzman does not buy or read many books,” the complaint says, “he found Armstrong’s book incredibly compelling and recommended the book to several friends.” Stutzman met Armstrong in 2005, during his Arnold gig. “At that time, Stutzman thanked Defendant Armstrong for writing his book and told him it was very inspiring and that he had recommended it to friends who were fighting cancer. Armstrong thanked Stutzman.” Truly the act of what Lance has called (when referring to journalists) “a snake with arms.”
There is a certain TMI quality to this brief, aimed at heightening the plaintiffs’ sense of betrayal. Wheeler lets us know that he “began riding bikes in his hometown of Cupertino, California, while in kindergarten and began riding long distances with his best friend. Soon he and his friend would ride over the mountains to Santa Cruz and back. Wheeler began hanging out at the renowned Cupertino Bike Shop where he became friendly with its owner, the legendary Spence Wolfe.”
OBJECTION, your honor: plaintiff should use this heartwarming material in his screenplay for Breaking Away: Again.
The full text of the complaint is below. And here’s my story about a similar complaint filed against Greg Mortenson over the lies in his work. (That suit was bounced by a federal district judge, and is currently under appeal.) The co-defendants in the Armstrong suit are all publishing companies. Lance’s co-author, Sally Jenkins, is not named.