By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - London's Sunday Times said it may take legal action against cyclist Lance Armstrong, including pursuing him for alleged fraud over a libel settlement, in the wake of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's report labeling him a drug cheat.
The newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, is "considering taking action to recover the money spent on a libel case he (Armstrong) brought and to pursue him for fraud," said a Sunday Times spokeswoman.
Armstrong sued the Sunday Times and two of its journalists over an article that appeared in the newspaper in 2004 concerning the doping allegations. After a series of rulings in Armstrong's favor in the UK courts, the two sides reached a settlement, the size of which was not disclosed. The newspaper also issued an apology to Armstrong.
One senior source at the newspaper said that the case cost it about $1 million.
There are precedents in the UK for the repayment of money won in libel suits. In one of the best-known instances, British novelist and former politician Jeffrey Archer paid back the damages he won in a libel case against the Daily Star newspaper. This followed his sentencing to four years jail in 2001 after being found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice in that libel case.
In August, Armstrong announced that he would no longer contest charges brought by the anti-doping agency, which earlier this week released a report and documentation, including affidavits from former Armstrong teammates, accusing him of not only using performance enhancing drugs but imposing a "doping culture" on his team.
Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Armstrong, said that he had no comment on the Sunday Times threat of legal action. Armstrong still emphatically denies doping, Fabiani said.
Fabiani rejected speculation that, in light of the anti-doping agency's accusations, U.S. federal prosecutors might re-open a criminal investigation into a cycling team partly-owned by Armstrong, which was closed earlier this year.
A reopening of the case was "entirely implausible," Fabiani said. "There is not a single thing in the USADA report that the US attorney did not have," he said.
(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Martin Howell)