Close watch on Armstrong's move

Anti-doping officials are hoping he has one thing at the top of his to-do list: to knock on their doors.
Last Updated 20 January 2013, 16:59 IST

The long wait for Lance Armstrong to admit his doping and deceit ended last week when he came clean, at least partly, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Now he is back in Hawaii with his family, without credibility, a job, a cancer foundation to represent or any foreseeable income that would come close to the millions he once earned from the sponsors that abandoned him last fall.
So what is Armstrong’s next move?

Anti-doping officials are hoping he has one thing at the top of his to-do list: to knock on their doors.

Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, are eager to see if Armstrong will come to them to testify under oath about his doping. They want to see if he is willing to provide details of how he doped and got away with it for so long.

With Winfrey, Armstrong failed to delve into any of the details of his doping, leaving many important questions unanswered. He did not provide names of the people who helped him dope. He never explained how he so masterfully evaded testing positive for more than a decade. By giving that information to anti-doping authorities, Armstrong could help improve a sport fighting to rid itself of a dark cloud of doping. It also could hasten his possible redemption, according to Steven Ungerleider, a psychologist who wrote a book about the East German doping machine and has been a consultant to the Olympic movement for more than 35 years.

Baby step

“I support Lance and I support his disclosures,” said Ungerleider, who has been in contact with Armstrong’s team of advisers. ‘But coming forward on ‘Oprah’ was just a very tiny baby step for him. He has to realise that he could leave a tremendous legacy if he were to meet with the WADA folks and assist them in cleaning up the sport by putting everything he knows on the table.

“I know he probably doesn’t think so now, but he could really come out of this with a positive legacy that he could leave for his children.”

Ungerleider said he did not expect Armstrong to come forward right away, though, because Armstrong is “dealing with enormous grief, anger and denial” that will take a while to work through.

Armstrong said Saturday in an email that he would spend some quiet time with his family before deciding his plans. It is “highly unlikely” that he will be speaking to the US Anti-Doping Agency, he said, but “anything is possible.” It is more likely that he will come forward with detailed information about his doping past to a truth and reconciliation commission. The purpose of that commission, which might be formed this year, would be to elicit truthful confessions from riders in exchange for lenient sanctions or no sanctions at all.

In his interview with Winfrey, Armstrong said he couldn’t be the man to push for that amnesty effort because he does not have any credibility in the sport, but that he would be a willing participant.

“If they have it, and I’m invited, I’ll be the first man at the door,” he said.
Armstrong began speaking with USADA officials last month, when he met them in Denver to discuss how he could mitigate his lifetime ban from Olympic sports. His goal is to compete in triathlons and running events, but most of those events are sanctioned by organisations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code, under which he is serving his lifetime ban. If he does help anti-doping officials build cases against others, his ban could be reduced to eight years.

“My hope is that deep down, he wants to help the sport, and that’s why he would come forward with information,” said Jonathan Vaughters, one of Armstrong’s former teammates who testified in the USADA case against Armstrong.

“I don’t know precisely what information he has, but he could potentially help the testing methods improve,” he said. “But under oath, he would need to be very specific with names and dates and times. He can’t just say what he said to Oprah. He needs to give up much more.” Before Armstrong decides if he will speak with anti-doping authorities, he will very likely have to deal with several pressing legal issues, including one involving the federal government.

The Justice Department is mulling whether to join a federal whistle-blower case in which Armstrong is named as a defendant. That lawsuit was filed by Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong’s former teammates, and claims that Armstrong and his associates defrauded the government by allowing doping on the U.S. Postal Service team when doping was explicitly forbidden in the sponsorship contract.

Armstrong has offered $5 million to settle the case, but the government is asking for much more, said one person with knowledge of the case. That person did not want his name used because the case is sealed.

(Published 20 January 2013, 16:59 IST)

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