Lance Armstrong reportedly met USADA CEO last month to discuss confession (+ Walsh interview video)
Revelation comes ahead of Oprah interview, which David Walsh says gives disgraced cyclist chance to emerge from "purgatory"
It has been claimed that Lance Armstrong met with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief executive Travis Tygart last month to discuss a “pathway to redemption” following his lifetime ban and loss of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005, among other results.
Tygart himself did not talk about any such meeting during his interview on the CBS show 60 Minutes Sports, which aired in the United States yesterday evening, but the programme did allude to such a meeting during the segment.
The newspaper USA Today says that the meeting did take place, and quoted one anonymous source who was present there as saying that Armstrong “came into the meeting basically wanting to compete as soon as possible, and wanting to do whatever it would take to do that.
"He left understanding that it would take much more than an apology, and even then, it could take years to have a chance to come back."
According to the newspaper, Armstrong was told that for any reduction in his lifetime ban to even be considered, he would need to provide as much in-depth information as he could about doping within sports.
Even then, any reduced ban would be likely to last a number of years.
Armstrong is due to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey next week, with the programme airing on Thursday evening in the United States and also being streamed live worldwide.
While it is believed that the interview, to be conducted at Armstrong’s home in Austin, Texas, will be pre-recorded, Winfrey’s staff have insisted that it will not be scripted.
They have also said that no question will be out of bounds, reflecting concerns raised by the likes of David Millar, the former doper who now sits on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athlete panel.
What isn’t clear right now is whether Armstrong will use the interview to make any kind of admission that he doped – an uncertainty that won’t harm the programme’s ratings.
However, another source present at the meeting with Tygart that USA Today says took place last month – Armstrong’s lawyer denies it took place – said they believe that the former US Postal rider is “giving serious consideration” to confessing about doping.
"That said, if I were his attorney, I don't think I would give my client permission to confess to the American people,” the source added. “It would open up all kinds of possible legal action and the civil suits that are out there and could be out there in the future."
While news of Armstrong’s looming interview with Oprah Winfrey caught some on the hop – one respected American sports journalist tweeted, “I am, for the first time in 15 years of covering #Armstrong and #cycling, completely speechless” – it had been predicted by Sunday Times journalist David Walsh.
Walsh, co-author of the landmark book LA Confidentiel and last month named journalist of the year in the Press Gazette awards for his pursuit of Armstrong, was speaking recently to rider and presenter Daniel Lloyd in a YouTube video for GCN.
Asked whether he could ever envisage Armstrong making a confession, Walsh acknowledged that there was a lot of speculation about “whether Lance is going to do a tell-all interview, turn up on Oprah Winfrey or wherever.”
Walsh, whose new book Seven Deadly Sins charts his pursuit of Armstrong, added: “I feel he has to do that to rebuild his life because he’s in a really bad place now.”
He pointed out though that if Armstrong were to confess, he would immediately have no defence in the lawsuits he faces from SCA Promotions and the Sunday Times, and speculated that while his lawyers would be urging him to “sit tight," doing a tell-all interview would allow him to emerge from the "purgatory" he currently finds himself in.