Lance Armstrong says he believes he will win the whistleblower lawsuit brought against him by former team mate Floyd Landis, but fears he could lose his home if it goes against him. The disgraced cyclist has also defended his decision to take part in former footballer Geoff Thomas’s charity ride following the route of the Tour de France next month.
He was speaking to the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton, one of four British journalists invited to attend a training camp in Colorado with leukaemia survivor Thomas and others taking part in the ex-England and Crystal Palace player’s One Day Ahead charity ride, which will tackle all 21 stages of the race 24 hours ahead of the peloton.
Thomas, who says Armstrong’s return from cancer to win the Tour de France inspired him to battle leukaemia, aims to raise £1 million for the charity Cure Leukaemia through next month’s ride, which the Texan will join for a couple of stages.
Armstrong: My participation in charity ride "least of Brian Cookson's problems"
Leading figures within cycling, including UCI president Brian Cookson, Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, have said that Armstrong should not take part in the event, and have warned him he won’t be welcome in France.
But Armstrong said: “I mean, I don’t know Brian Cookson. I don’t know what his vision is for the sport. I don’t know if he is even able to form a vision. But I do know that me and Geoff riding in France is the least of his problems.
“If he is making public comments — and this is as strong as I’ll go — he needs to be talking about other things because this sport is not in a good place for a variety of reasons. A lot of it has to do — perhaps some would say — with me. But he doesn’t need to worry about this.”
He questioned the success of Cookson’s efforts to clean up the sport, given that the UCI Licence Commission [which operates independently of the governing body] decided earlier this year not to rescind the WorldTour licence of Armstrong’s former team, Astana.
“You guys can decide if he has done a good job, if he’s been tough on Astana, whether he’s stuck with his mission statement,” he said.
“Plenty of people would argue he’s laid down on a lot of things. Cookson is not very good at taking people down. So no disrespect to them [Cookson and Brailsford] but I don’t care what they think. This is not about them.”
Armstrong himself believes he will get a better reception than some are predicting. “I could be wrong but I’ve been to France since all this happened and that’s not the reaction I get,” he said. “I don’t know if certain people might be concerned that, God forbid, the reaction is positive. What happens then?”
Asked about the health of the sport now compared to when he was riding, Armstrong, who testified before the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), said: “I absolutely don’t think it’s in a better place.”
However, he added that a figure provided by a source quoted in its report who suggested 90 per cent of the current peloton is doping was “excessive”.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named still wants reduced ban
He maintains that he has been singled out for particularly harsh punishment, and said: “I’m that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about, Voldemort? It’s as if you can’t mention him.
“I’m the one everybody wants to pretend never lived. But that will not be the case for ever because it can’t be the case for ever. That won’t work, people aren’t stupid. We know what happened.”
Armstrong revealed he is still in discussion with USADA CEO Travis Tygart, the man who brought him down, and explained why he would like to see a reduction in his lifetime ban.
“The ban matters for a couple of reasons,” he explained. “Primarily for triathlon [at 43 he still wants to compete] and because the world was told I was the biggest fraud in the history of sport and I don’t think that’s true.
“I’m not done talking to Travis, I’ll tell you that,” he went on. “But he wants fresh evidence? If we don’t know it by now then I missed it, between 10 books and three movies.
“At this point, after a federal investigation, a criminal investigation, a civil investigation, a federal agency, the threat of perjury and jail, an anti-doping agency threatening lifetime bans, books — trust me, it’s all there.
“I came through on my end with the CIRC report. I said I would be the first man in the door, I did it, went twice, answered every question I could.”
Hopeful of winning the whistleblower case - but says losing will ruin him
As for the whistleblower case, initiated by Landis and subsequently joined by the US Department of Justice, Armstrong is said to be “quietly confident” of winning.
The case revolves around the alleged misuse of federal funds, with US Postal Service sponsorship money helping finance the team’s doping programme, and should Armstrong lose it could cost him up to $100 million.
If that were to happen, he said, “We would not be sitting at this table any more. We wouldn’t be sitting in this home any more. We wouldn’t be sitting in any home. I don’t have $100 million.
“But we like our case, is all I will say. I’m not going to jinx myself. But I don’t know.”
As the person who originally brought the action, Landis – himself stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title – stands to earn one third of any money recovered from Armstrong.
He asked his interviewers: “How do you guys see it? Say the jury says pay up $100 million so Floyd Landis gets $33 million. Is everybody at this jury happy with that?
“There’s no logic to that. But the case is not about who lied, who doped. The case is about the damages. The Postal Service on its own commissioned the studies in 2004 that showed it made $100 million [as a result of its sponsorship]. So where are the damages?”
Armstrong’s legal team has continually tried to block the process but he insisted: “Certainly in my depositions and hearings in the trial for the federal case, at this point in my life, I’m not lying, I’m not going to jail.
“I’m not leaving what I got going on. And they would. If they found out I had lied, they would absolutely move for that. They would love it, love it.”
Livestrong door still firmly shut
In the wake of his televised confession to Oprah Winfrey in January 2013, Armstrong was removed from the board of Livestrong, the charity he founded as he battled cancer in 1996 and whose yellow wristbands became its signature.
He said he wanted to return to the organisation, saying: “I would like ultimately to be part of Livestrong again. And that might take longer than any of it. But it would be the logical move for both of us, them and me.”
Asked whether Livestrong seemed receptive, however, he said: “No. Not that I know of. But I’m here, I’m ready.”
Armstrong said he appreciated Thomas’s invitation to take part in the One Day Ahead ride, adding: “I view my life and career as two parts.
“One was the cycling side and one was the non-profit side with Livestrong. And that’s all totally authentic and real. That work is unimpeachable.
“But Geoff has been consistent. He caught a ton of grief. Most people don’t have the guts to ride that out,” he added.
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