Confession hour for Lance

Armstrong looks for amnesty while agreeing to hold talks with USADA

Confession hour for Lance

During his battle with the US Anti-Doping Agency last year, Lance Armstrong went to extreme lengths to disparage the agency, a quasi-governmental organization charged with policing banned drug use in Olympic sports.

He called the organization a kangaroo court that flagrantly violated the constitution and deceitfully used taxpayer dollars to conduct witch hunts. He called its chief executive, Travis Tygart, an anti-doping zealot with a vendetta against him, even as the agency released more than 1,000 pages of evidence in October.

Yet within the last month, Armstrong’s representatives reached out to Tygart to arrange a meeting between Armstrong and the agency. The goal of that meeting was to find out if a confession could mitigate Armstrong’s lifetime ban from Olympic sports, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

Tygart welcomed the invitation, and that meeting occurred last month, said one person familiar with the situation. In the end, no matter how much Tygart and Armstrong had fought each other, they still need each other. But Tim Herman, Armstrong’s Austin, Texas-based lawyer, said talks with Tygart and the anti-doping agency are not on the table. Armstrong has not met with Tygart, Herman said.

Armstrong, 41, would like to resume competing in triathlons and running events that are sanctioned by organizations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code. Tygart wants to know how Armstrong so skillfully eluded testing positive for banned drugs for nearly a decade.

If Tygart is able to gather incriminating information about those people and build cases against them that could bar them from sports, he could deal a serious blow to the doping that has been enmeshed in the culture of cycling for more than 100 years. Though 11 of Armstrong’s former team-mates provided some information about those enablers, it is very likely that Armstrong, who kept much of the doping secretive, according to some of his teammates, knows much more.

“I think it’s very valuable to them to know exactly how Lance avoided getting caught and how tests were evaded,” said Jonathan Vaughters, a former Armstrong team-mate, a vocal anti-doping proponent and current co-owner of the Garmin-Sharp professional cycling team. “They need someone on the inside to tell them how it was done, and not just anyone on the inside, someone on the inside who was very influential. Someone like Lance.”

The anti-doping agency already has brought cases against five of Armstrong’s former colleagues. Michele Ferrari, an Italian doctor and Armstrong’s trainer, and Luis Garcia del Moral, a team doctor, have accepted lifetime bans. The three others have requested that their cases go to arbitration: Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s team manager who remains a powerful influence in the sport; Pepe Marti, a former team trainer; and Pedro Celaya.
If Armstrong gives an admission to the anti-doping agency, his testimony might help the agency win those cases.

It also might help the agency find out who, if anyone, in the hierarchy of cycling was involved in the cover-up. At least two of Armstrong’s former team-mates have claimed that the International Cycling Union, cycling’s worldwide governing body, made the results of a failed drug test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland disappear for Armstrong. Only Armstrong might be able to say if that is true.

Athletes like the cyclist Joe Papp, who tested positive once, then was later caught distributing performance-enhancing drugs, should have received a lifetime ban for his second offense. Instead, he received eight years after helping the anti-doping agency and federal law enforcement build cases on people involved in doping.

Papp now gives speeches about the dangers of doping. Whether Armstrong will make that dramatic of a turn is unclear. Several legal cases stand between him and his confession, say several people familiar with the situation. But he and Tygart have taken the first step.

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