Lance Armstrong has apparently confessed his dope use and has made a public apology in an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, but this confession comes after Irish journalist David Walsh spent 13 years working to expose the world’s greatest cyclist’s drug use.
If not for Walsh, Armstrong might never have been exposed and now after 13 years the Kilkenny-born journalist is vindicated.
“I think the Armstrong story resonated with people. I think that people felt that Armstrong had cheated them in a way that no sports man had ever done to them before. Not only did he say, ‘I’m a great sportsman,’ he also said, ‘I’m a great human being, I’m a great humanitarian, I’m the sportsman who goes beyond his sport to bring comfort to the afflicted with cancer.’
“And people bought into that. They gave him a respect that they would never give a normal sportsman. And to realise then that this guy has cynically used that to enrich himself, that was very difficult for people and that’s why I ended up being the recipient of a ridiculous amount of praise, because I don’t deserve anything like the praise I’ve got.”
Walsh told the Huffington Post that authorities and other journalists deliberately looked the wrong way for years
“People gave Armstrong a latitude that they don’t give their best friends. Why? Because he’s powerful. Because he’s rich. Because he’s cool to know. In those days I was a bit of a crusader, I couldn’t meet anybody without trying to convince them that Armstrong was a fraud. It didn’t matter if it was someone in a queue for an X-ray machine at an airport or somebody in a coffee shop I ended up sitting beside, I’d notice their yellow wristband [Armstrong’s Livestrong charity] and I couldn’t leave it. I wouldn’t say I was deranged but I was on a mission.”
Walsh first had his doubts about Armstrong’s drug denial after watching him race in the 1990s and has said that even back then Armstrong, who finished well down the field in the Tour before he began drugging, had the classic profile of a doper.
He told the Irish Post, “When I first met him , I kinda liked him, I warmed to him. His drive, his ambition, ‘I’m going to be somebody.’
“But as I watched him you could see the profile of the racer he was — he was a one-day racer. He was never meant to go up mountains with the best guys. That’s what doping can do: it can change a guy that should be a donkey in the Tour de France into a thoroughbred. The old drugs would make a guy a better donkey. But he’d still be a donkey.
“Now, the blood doping makes guys who should never be capable of winning the Tour de France, capable of winning the Tour de France.
“Merckx, Hinault, Anquetil won it in their first year. Lance Armstrong rode the Tour four times [before 1999]. His best position was 36th. He never came near the leaders in the mountain stage.”
Walsh was convinced he had the goods on Armstrong and resigned from his job after the Sunday Times, where he was Chief Sports Reporter, wary of libel charges, refused to print the dope charge story. He un-resigned after a version of his piece that the paper thought would avoid libel charges went ahead in the Sunday Times.
However, The Sunday Times was promptly sued for £600,000 ($964,776) and lost.
Despite this Walsh continued investigating the story as Armstrong soiled the good names of Walsh’s sources, including Armstrong’s former masseuse, Irish-born Emma O’Reilly.