Lance Armstrong has closed the door on the prospect of his being interviewed under oath by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) regarding his doping. The disgraced cyclist, who last month confessed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had used performance enhancing drugs on the way to all seven of the Tour de France victories he was stripped of last year.
A statement released today from Armstrong’s lawyer, Tim Herman, says that while the 41-year-old is still prepared to co-operate with any potential truth and reconciliation process, he will not be speaking to USADA, which stands accused of seeking to “demonize selected individuals.”
In recent weeks, Armstrong’s representatives have been speaking with USADA to try and hammer out an agreement that would result in him making a confession that would provide substantial assistance to USADA and thereby potentially allow his lifetime ban to be reduced to eight years.
Earlier this month, USADA gave Armstrong an additional two weeks to iron out the details of any potential formal confession, but one potential stumbling block is likely to have been his insistence that he did not dope after coming out of retirement in 2009.
Armstrong is already involved in lawsuits with millions of dollars at stake with The Sunday Times, which is looking to recover libel damages paid to him in an out of court settlement in 2006, and SCA Promotions, which he successfully sued the same year for non-payment of bonuses it had insured and which now wants the money back.
While any other potential legal action from the period prior to his retirement in 2005 is now statute-barred, that would not apply to anything after his return to the sport in 2009, and any admission of doping relating to that and subsequent years would lay Armstrong open to fresh action from parties such as sponsors.
Armstrong is also the subject of a ‘whistleblower’ action brought by former US Postal team mate Floyd Landis – a case that the federal government has the option of joining.
In a separate development, earlier this month a ‘senior source’ confirmed that he may face charges of obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation.
The statement released on behalf of Armstrong today says:
"Lance is willing to cooperate fully and has been very clear: He will be the first man through the door, and once inside will answer every question, at an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport.
"We remain hopeful that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result.
"In the meantime, for several reasons, Lance will not participate in USADA's efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95% of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction."
That reference to Europe ties in with comments made by Herman last month in which he portrayed Armstrong as an innocent abroad who had been inducted into doping by the culture of a Euro-centric sport, rather than, as USADA insists, the key player in the biggest doping conspiracy sport has ever seen.
"It's a European culture that all these Americans were dropped into," he told USA Today earlier this month. "It's been going on for a hundred years. To hear [USADA CEO Travis] Tygart tell it, Lance Armstrong is responsible for the culture he was dropped into on a team (that) was engaged in misconduct long before he got to the team.
"He was a 19-year-old kid dropped in this culture, just like everybody else. He didn't create it. ... eventually you only have two choices: you can go home or conform. He's acknowledged his mistake, but he's like virtually every other rider who was a competitor of any significance."
This evening, USADA chief executive Travis Tygart issued his own statement in response to Armstrong's refusal to formally confess, in which he said:
“We have provided Mr. Armstrong several opportunities to assist in our ongoing efforts to clean up the sport of cycling.
“Following his recent television interview, we again invited him to come in and provide honest information, and he was informed in writing by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that this was the appropriate avenue for him if he wanted to be part of the solution.
“Over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA, but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so.
“Today we learned from the media that Mr. Armstrong is choosing not to come in and be truthful and that he will not take the opportunity to work toward righting his wrongs in sport.
"At this time we are moving forward with our investigation without him and we will continue to work closely with WADA and other appropriate and responsible international authorities to fulfill our promise to clean athletes to protect their right to compete on a drug free playing field.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.