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by Shane Stokes
October 20, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
Over two years after the Lance Armstrong biopic ‘The Program’ had its premiere, a dispute about the exclusion of one of the key figures from the story is heading to the courts and will be heard in January.
The movie catalogued Armstrong’s battle with journalists or, rather, with one journalist. Pierre Ballester worked with David Walsh for many years, co-writing La Confidentiel, LA Officiel and writing the bulk of a follow-up book, Le Sale Tour (The Dirty Tour).
Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins drew heavily on those yet, while it was the basis for the movie, the film excludes Ballester and his contribution.
It grossed $3 million worldwide and also generated considerable sales of a reissued Seven Deadly Sins.
At the time of the movie’s release two years ago, Ballester claimed that Walsh called him and asked him to sign away his rights. The Frenchman said he rejected that request and heard nothing after that. At the same time another key figure, former professional Christophe Bassons, told the Le Monde newspaper that he was also asked to sign over rights for one dollar. He also refused.
Ballester told Le Monde in 2015 that he felt he had been treated unfairly.
“They can write the scene as they see fit and make David the journalist against the rest of the world, but they can not make up the reality of the facts: we were two, 50-50, in writing,” he said. “It’s eight years of partnership trampled.”
Also unhappy was book publisher Editions de La Martinière who, along with Ballester, were represented by lawyer Thibault de Montbrial. He sent a letter to Studio Canal, the French producer and distributor of the movie, “asking them under what conditions they intended to compensate the serious damage suffered.
“La Martinière Editions, to which the authors had ceded their audiovisual reproduction rights, find themselves totally dispossessed of an investigation they financed,” he continued. “Pierre Ballester is the victim of a form of historical revisionism that recalls the time when the Politburo made photos disappear of the opponents of the Soviet regime.”
Ballester also said that no efforts had been made to be fair. “Neither the publisher nor I have been warned by the producer, the director, the distributor or anyone else,” he said. “David had just called me … that I give up my rights for free. My answer, negative, remained unanswered.”
At the time Ballester told CyclingTips that he was hopeful that a resolution could be found. Over two years later, that has not been done.
CyclingTips understands that on January 15 the case will go to trial in Paris. On one side, the film producers: on the other, Ballester and the publisher La Martinière Editions.