McQuaid welcomes Armstrong confession
UCI president Pat McQuaid has welcomed Lance Armstrong’s confession of using performance-enhancing drugs – and, in particular, the American’s insistence that cycling’s world governing body were not complicit in keeping his doping hidden.
After years of denials, the 41-year-old American told Oprah Winfrey in a television interview that he doped during his run of seven successive Tour de France titles, from 1999 to 2005.
The confession followed a USADA investigation which implicated Armstrong as a central figure in what it called “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
He was stripped of all results from August 1, 1998 and banned from sport for life.
McQuaid said in a statement: “Lance Armstrong’s decision finally to confront his past is an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport.
“Lance Armstrong has confirmed there was no collusion or conspiracy between the UCI and Lance Armstrong. There were no positive tests which were covered up and he has confirmed that the donations made to the UCI were to assist in the fight against doping.”
The UCI has established an independent commission to investigate claims of collusion made by USADA, but the inquiry, which is yet to begin, has already been hit by political squabbles.
McQuaid added: “It was disturbing to watch him describe a litany of offences including among others doping throughout his career, leading a team that doped, bullying, consistently lying to everyone and producing a backdated medical prescription to justify a test result.
“However, Lance Armstrong also rightly said that cycling is a completely different sport today than it was 10 years ago. In particular the UCI’s introduction of the biological passport in 2008 – the first sports federation to do so – has made a real difference in the fight against doping.
“Finally, we note that Lance Armstrong expressed a wish to participate in a truth and reconciliation process, which we would welcome.”
World Anti-Doping Agency chief executive John Fahey insists chemical evidence shows Armstrong did dope during his comeback years – in 2009 and 2010 – despite the Texan’s claims to the contrary.
“The evidence from USADA is that Armstrong’s blood tests show variations in his blood that show with absolute certainty he was doping after 2005,” Fahey told The Daily Telegraph. “Believe USADA or believe Armstrong? I know who to believe.
“It struck me that the statute of limitations under US law might be relevant and Armstrong would not want to admit to anything in regards to his comeback (in 2009) that might be picked up under the US criminal code.
“This bloke is a cheat and did my view of him change after watching the interview? No.”
USADA has called on Armstrong to admit to the full extent of his drugs use under oath.
Following the broadcast of the interview, USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said in a statement: “Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit.
“His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.”
David Walsh, The Sunday Times’ chief sports writer, is widely credited with much of the investigative journalism which contributed to Armstrong’s downfall.
Walsh wrote on Twitter: “First reaction is Oprah began the interview brilliantly with her series of ’yes or no’ questions. It felt good to hear him admit to doping.
“Too many questions not answered and refusal to confirm hospital room admission was deeply disappointing. Betsy Andreu will be disgusted.”
Too many questions not answered and refusal to confirm hospital room admission was deeply disappointing. Betsy Andreu will be disgusted.— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) January 18, 2013
Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong’s former team-mate Frankie Andreu, claims she heard the 41-year-old telling doctors at Indiana University Hospital that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. He was being treated for cancer at the time.
Armstrong described Betsy Andreu as “crazy” and he told Winfrey he had apologised to her for that, but would not confirm the hospital conversation took place.
Betsy Andreu was far from satisfied with Armstrong’s confession.
“I’m really disappointed,” she told CNN.
“He owed it to me; you owed it to me Lance, and you dropped the ball. After what you’ve done to me, what you’ve done to my family, and you couldn’t own up to it.
“And now we’re supposed to believe you? You had one chance at the truth; this is it. If he’s not going to tell the truth, if he can’t say ’Yes the hospital room (and confession to the doctor about drug use) happened,’ then how are we to believe everything else he’s saying?
“He won’t do it because it did happen. That’s not being transparent. That’s not being completely honest.
“I want to believe that Lance wants to come clean, but this is giving me an indication that I can’t. We’re already questioning him.”
The more I think about Betsy, the more sympathy I feel for her. She's waited almost ten years to hear him say she didn't lie and he refuses.— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) January 18, 2013
Emma O’Reilly, a former masseuse with US Postal who spoke out about Armstrong’s misdemeanours, was another who felt his wrath.
Walsh went on: “I was pleased Oprah reminded him he had called Emma O’Reilly a whore. And pleased he confirmed Emma’s account of cover-up of 1999 positive.
“Lest anyone forget, he did this interview because his reputation/brand was in the gutter. Only time will tell how much it helps.
“When he said he was behaving like a jerk during those years, I thought ’Lance, I could have told you that back then’.”
The more I think about the interview, the more conscious I become of the evasions and non-answers. His truth will come dropping slowly.— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) January 18, 2013