Excerpts from interview with USADA’s Travis Tygart
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Excerpts from an Associated Press interview with USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, who led the American anti-doping agency’s case against Lance Armstrong that resulted in the cyclist being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life in 2012:
On Armstrong’s comments that he was singled out by USADA and not offered the same deal as other riders who doped and received lesser bans:
“We spent, I don’t know, a week to ten days talking, various phone calls with his lawyers. We sent him a letter saying we want you to be truthful. Their response was ‘Your process is a charade, we’ve never doped, get lost.’ And so we were forced. You can go back and play some semantic game if you want to. The reality is at that point he attempted to bankrupt us and win the case against us and continued to conceal the truth. ... We gave him the opportunity to come in and be truthful.”
On the possibility of Armstrong’s life ban being reduced if he cooperates with the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s ongoing investigation into doping in cycling:
“I think it’s premature (to talk about it) until he comes in and is truthful on all fronts. Technically it’s legally possible under the WADA 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.”
On Armstrong’s claims of a “vendetta” against him by USADA:
“If it was some personal vendetta we’d say lifetime ban and we’re done. And see you next lifetime. And that’s not at all what we’ve said. In fact, we met in December, we rearranged holiday schedules to meet with them again in January ... They led us to believe he was coming in to be fully truthful and candid and we were more than willing to take advantage of the opportunity.
“So, the facts clearly demonstrate we’ve been nothing but fair in doing our job. And yes we had to hold him as well as all the others that cheated the system for the time that they did accountable but that’s our job. Nothing more, nothing less.”
On Armstrong’s insistence that he rode the 2009 and 2010 Tour de France races clean:
“As far as we’re concerned at this point, the Armstrong piece of this is over. It’s a final legal binding decision. And make no mistake he exercised his right not to challenge anything. And so, all of these after the fact rationalizations and accusations, he gave up his legal right knowingly and intentionally on the advice of some of the top lawyers in the world not to challenge it.
“He certainly could have gone and challenged any pieces, our motives, any pieces of the sanction, the length of the sanctions ... the disqualification (from the Tour) in 2009 and 2010. That was a legally viable option for him in front of independent arbitrators and they obviously chose not to do that.”
On the future of cycling and the importance of a truth and reconciliation commission under the UCI’s new leadership in the wake of the sport’s doping scandals:
“To get to the bottom of the dark culture during that time is critically important for the success of the sport going forward. And I think there’s a real opportunity now, with a new leadership of UCI, and I think I’m as confident as I’ve ever been.
“We’ve had multiple meetings and discussions directly with them (the UCI). We obviously appreciate their good faith interest in learning from what we saw. Because, look, we’ve heard the stories. We sat down with 20-plus riders and others who were confronted with that decision to dope and you hear the stories and you have compassion, but an understanding of the tensions that exist within a sport culture.”
“Look, we’re compassionate and forgiving people and he was really no worse than a lot of the teammates that were in his team and others in the pro-peloton from that standpoint. He was the one that won, obviously. He was the one that profited the most. But we decided at the very beginning to treat all the athletes the same, including him, even though there were probably very good arguments why he should have been treated differently.”
Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP