Lance Armstrong has reportedly met with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart, giving rise to speculation that his lifetime ban for doping could be reduced – although Tygart says such talk is premature, and that it may be too late for Armstrong to provide new information that could lead to the sanction being revised.
The meeting between the disgraced cyclist and the man who led the 2012 investigation that resulted in him being stripped of results including seven Tour de France titles took place last week, reports The New York Times.
The newspaper says that while neither Tygart nor Armstrong’s lawyers confirmed that the two men met, the former US Postal Service rider told friends that they did speak at Denver International Airport last week and he hoped their conversation would lead to further talks.
Their meeting came in the wake of the publication of the Cycling Independent Research Commission report earlier this month, which said that the UCI had protected and defending Armstrong against accusations of doping. The 43-year-old was one of 174 people interviewed by the panel.
The pair last met in December 2012, two months after USADA issued its sanction on Armstrong following its investigation into doping at the USPS team, and a month before the seven-time Tour de France winner finally admitted to doping his way to those titles.
That earlier meeting ended acrimoniously, but last November Tygart revealed that he and Armstrong had kept in touch and that he hoped Armstrong, who has always contested USADA’s assertion that he used performance enhancing drugs after coming out of retirement in 2009, would co-operate with it.
Tygart would not be drawn on whether he did in fact meet Armstrong last week, but said: “Our position has not changed. From the very beginning, our hope has always been that he would come in, sit down and have a full discussion.”
UCI president Brian Cookson is reported to have tried to bring about a rapprochement between the two men, as has former pro cyclist Scott Mercier, a team mate of Armstrong at USPS and a friend of both him and Tygart.
Speaking of Armstrong’s appearance before the CIRC panel, Tygart noted “that he was genuinely sorry for what had happened, and I think he has a lot to offer anti-doping. So I am hopeful.”
However, he warned: “It is premature to talk about any sanction reduction,” adding that Armstrong had been given the opportunity in June 2012 to reveal everything he knew, which could have resulted in him receiving the same six-month ban as those who testified against him.
Tygart said: “It was a huge missed opportunity. It would have gotten rid of the leadership of the UCI a lot quicker, and it would have gotten rid of other people in the system who were implicated in doping.”
Any reduction in Armstrong’s ban would have to be as a result of the 43-year-old providing “substantial assistance” to investigators, but Tygart said it could be too late for that.
“We are clearly in a different position now than we were then,” he explained. “A lot of what we hoped Lance could tell us then has subsequently been proven.”
He also acknowledged that lawsuits with millions of dollars at stake, such as the whistleblower action brought by Armstrong’s former team mate Floyd Landis and subsequently joined by the US Department of Justice, were a barrier to Armstrong co-operating fully with anti-doping authorities.
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