USADA chief executive says Lance Armstrong could have kept 5 Tour de France titles if he'd come clean
Cover-up means statute of limitations doesn't apply, says Travis Tygart; details of action against witnesses coming soon
The CEO of the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, has said that Lance Armstrong may have been allowed to keep all but two of his seven Tour de France titles had he co-operated with the agency with its enquiry. In an interview published yesterday in USA Today, Tygart also said that details of action to be taken against a number of Armstrong’s former team mates who testified against him will be revealed shortly.
Last Friday, USADA banned Armstrong from sport regulated by the World Anti-Doping Code for life and stripped him of his competitive results dating back to 1 August 1998, the year he made his comeback from cancer. The results from which he has been disqualified include his seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005.
While the World Anti-Doping Code stipulates a statute of limitations of eight years in respect of doping offences, it is possible to extend that in cases where there has been a cover-up.
Tygart told USA Today that if the 40-year-old had "come in and been truthful, then the evidence might have been that the statute should apply [which] would have been fine by us."
USADA’s CEO said that would have meant Armstrong losing only his last two Tour de France titles from 2004 and 2005, and also said that his ban could have been reduced "if he would have been truthful and willing to meet to help the sport move forward for the good."
Leaving the door open for what would appear to be an unlikely rapprochement with the former US Postal rider, he added: "Of course, this is still possible and we always remain open, because while the truth hurts, ultimately, from what we have seen in these types of cases, acknowledging the truth is the best way forward,” he added.
Last week, a judge in Austin, Texas dismissed a lawsuit from Armstrong who had argued that USADA had no jurisdiction in the matter, instead saying that it should be dealt with by the UCI.
Following that decision, on Thursday evening, Armstrong issued a statement saying that he would not challenge USADA’s charges through arbitration.
He also continued to insist that he had been the victim of a “witch hunt” and that the agency had no authority to impose the sanctions that it subsequently confirmed.
Tygart continues to maintain that USADA, which will publish its full, reasoned decision shortly, does have jurisdiction in the issue, pointing out that both the UCI and the World Anto-Doping Agency (WADA) will be able to appeal it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, should they so wish.
"Unless and until it is appealed and overturned, then under the world rules, it must be imposed," he explained.
Speaking of the reaction to Friday’s announcement, Tygart said: "We are all crushed when our sports heroes disappoint us.
"I have had a few communications with disappointed people about how deeply sorry we are for the decisions made by those involved with the [Armstrong] doping conspiracy and the facts we were handed.
“But they seem to appreciate the difficult but important job we have to do for clean athletes and the integrity of competition," he went on, highlighting what he called "an outpouring of support" for USADA’s actions.
"Parents and others who value the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport have e-mailed, called and shown their appreciation for us doing our job.
"Of course, we have also received some disturbing e-mails and threats. At the end of the day, we do our job based on the evidence — nothing more and nothing less."
As far as the witness testimony from former team mates of Armstrong is concerned, Tygart said that USADA “will be announcing the consequences and other details on other riders in the coming weeks."
While the identity of those riders has not officially been confirmed, the Armstrong camp has consistently cast doubt on their reliability, alleging that they have struck deals with USADA in order to mitigate the consequences for themselves.
However, by declining to exercise his right to an arbitration hearing, Armstrong and his lawyers will not now have the opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses and attack their credibility.
Tygart also described Armstrong’s claims that he is the victim of a personal vendetta as "totally baseless and untrue," saying that the former cyclist is "baselessly attacking those who are just doing their job."