Lance can redeem himself, says man who exposed him
The door is open for Lance Armstrong to earn redemption - but only if he co-operates fully with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help cycling move on from its drug-stained past, says the man who exposed the disgraced rider.
It is believed that Armstrong is willing to talk to the UCI's proposed new 'truth and reconciliation' commission, as well as in helping out USADA's ongoing investigation into doping in cycling, in return for a reduction in his lifetime ban.
Armstrong and his former U.S. Postal teammates were charged last year by USADA with engineering "the most sophisticated doping programme professional sport has ever seen", with the American stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the UCI after opting not to contest the charge. He then admitted to doping during all of his Tour victories in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January.
"I think it's premature [to talk about it] until he comes in and is truthful on all fronts," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said. "Technically it's legally possible under the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] code that currently exists. That said, it all depends on the assistance and the value. Certainly the value of the information is less today than it was 12 months ago or back in June of 2012 when we were bringing the case.
"And clean athletes have suffered, to a certain extent, because of his delay and his refusal to come in. That said, we're overly hopeful and we want it to happen. It ultimately would be good for the sport, which is our goal. It would be good for him. It would help him for the public forgiving if he was finally truthful on all fronts."
Tygart was speaking in Cape Town ahead of this week's World Conference on Doping in Sport. The four-day summit will deal with issues from the fallout over the Armstrong scandal, with WADA voting on proposed changes to their code including doubling bans for serious doping offences from two years to four.
WADA also wants to re-examine testing procedures, as well as strengthen punishments for trainers and officials assisting in doping. New UCI president Brian Cookson will attend the conference, which begins on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
"We're comfortable with the four years on a first offence," Tygart added. "Obviously trafficking, distribution, cover-up can be a higher level of offence and we think that's appropriate, particularly for athlete support personnel, coaches, doctors, team owners that are complicit in a conspiracy."
Last week in a four-part interview with Cycling News' website, Armstrong claimed he was "singled out" by USADA and that they had a "vendetta" against him. He believes he has been unfairly punished, and that all doping offenders should receive the same punishment. However Tygart insists there is nothing personal.
"Play One out of the defence playbook is to identify a single person and then vilify them," Tygart said. "And that's how you try to bully them or intimidate them or scare them away from doing the job and exposing the truth that they know our job was to expose. Look, we were very methodical, very judicial. It's a very clinical process. We went through it, treated him the same as everyone else was treated."
Tygart did acknowledge that Armstrong was "no worse" than other riders who had doped in the same period, however believes the American is a different case. Armstrong denied he had been offered the chance by USADA last year to lose just two of his Tour titles and receive only a six-month ban if he came forward.
"He was the one that won, obviously. He was the one that profited the most," Tygart added. "It can't be a good situation where he's at right now. That was a large part why we gave [him] the opportunity back in June 2012 to come forward. We were as disappointed as anyone back then when they rejected that and went on the attack. And we still, I think, remain open."
And Tygart is keen to see the truth and reconciliation commission get the go-ahead from WADA and the UCI's new leadership this week.
"We've been pushing for it from Day One," Tygart said. "When we saw the evidence that we saw during the course of this investigation, we knew this was not just about one individual athlete. It was about a system that corrupted a sport. ... To get to the bottom of the dark culture during that time is critically important for the success of the sport going forward."
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