• Cycling

Lance's life ban could be cut to eight years

ESPN staff
November 14, 2013
Lance Armstrong is looking to reduce his lifetime ban © PA Photos

Lance Armstrong's lifetime ban could be cut to just eight years, according to the man who took him down.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart, who played an integral role in proving that Armstrong had doped during all seven of his Tour de France wins, said the reduction would be "technically possible" were the American to testify to the UCI's new truth and reconciliation commission.

Armstrong said in an interview with Cycling News last week that he would be "happy to talk" to the commission, but has hinted he would only do so were he to receive a reduction in his ban.

"He's had plenty of opportunities to come in before now and there's no sense that is actually now going to happen," Tygart told BBC Sport. "We'll see if there is still an opportunity for him to get any reduction."

USADA handed Armstrong his sanction in August 2012 and stripped him of his Tour titles, won between 1999 and 2005, for orchestrating "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen". Armstrong admitted to doping during all seven wins in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January.

New UCI president Brian Cookson this week announced the formation of an inquiry in conjunction with the World Anti-Doping Agency aimed at investigating cycling's drug-stained past, with Armstrong to be invited to testify. Cookson, elected in September on a promise to clean up the sport, is keen to hear Armstrong's comments on allegations the American rider colluded with UCI hierarchy to cover up positive tests during his Tour wins.

In the wake of the announcement of the inquiry, which will commence next year, Tygart told the BBC it was important for cycling to "unshackle itself from its dirty past for the good of everyone".

Tygart added: "What's important is this sport moves forward and puts this dark, dirty time period behind it and gives clean athletes a chance to be successful." He also believes "clean athletes have been hurt" by Armstrong's failure to speak up.

Armstrong has claimed USADA have a "vendetta" against him, with other dopers receiving "a total free pass" while he has been given "the death penalty".

"It wouldn't be helpful for me to suggest a length of ban but, if you look at the current rules, USADA could probably look at an eight-year ban," Cookson said. "If USADA were to agree that, then the UCI certainly wouldn't oppose it but, equally, I'm not recommending that either."

"The UCI can't have much impact on his current situation because the sanctions have been imposed by USADA. Armstrong needs to be clear with them what his role is, what he can and can't offer to them in terms of substantial assistance to look at whether they can offer him any reductions in the sanctions that he's currently got."

Cookson also revealed that the UCI and WADA's doping inquiry is likely to start with the Festina affair which rocked the 1998 Tour, a year before Armstrong came to dominance.

Just days before the race, a soigneur of the Festina team was stopped by customs officers at the French border with a large haul of doping products in his car boot, prompting a crackdown from French police including hotel raids as several teams withdrew. The investigation that followed revealed systematic doping in the sport and led to the 1999 race being dubbed the 'Tour of Renewal'.

"We've got a timeframe in mind as to how far back we go," said Cookson. "That's probably likely to be 1998, which is as good a time as any. That ties in with the big controversy at the time, the Festina Affair. There was an opportunity for cycling to make a new start at the time, which it didn't take.

"I'm not going to rule going back further than that if WADA or others think it's essential or, indeed, if others want to come forward and give evidence about years before that. I want it to be relevant to the current situation and help an organisation that provides information, advice and conclusions that we can use to build cycling on to stop those mistakes happening again."

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