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.
Armstrong called O’Reilly, who owns her own business in Manchester, a whore while under oath during the SCA case.
The modest journalist, who has now won Best Sports Journalist and then Best Journalist, told the Irish Post Armstrong was a complete cheat.
“I ended up being the recipient of a ridiculous amount of praise, because I don’t deserve anything like the praise I got,” he says modestly.
Armstrong will confess and apologize about his dope use during a 90 minute interview that took place at his Austin home on Monday. The interview will air on Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network. It will be the first time Armstrong has publicly responded to the doping investigation. The Daily Mail reported, “A person with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press a day earlier that Armstrong will give a limited confession and apologize.”
Armstrong will not likely give many details about his involvement in the doping scandal nor go into depth on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) allegations. Armstrong told the Associated Press on Saturday, “I told her (Winfrey) to go wherever she wants and I’ll answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly. That’s all I can say.”
A confession could impact a pending lawsuit by the Sunday Times. The Sunday Times, based in London, is suing Armstrong to recover the $600,000 fee for settling a libel lawsuit and SCA Promotions, based in Dallas, may sue him to recover more than $7.5 million which an arbitration panel awarded Armstrong as a bonus for his Tour de France win. He is also facing a lawsuit from the U.S. Postal Service filed by his former teammate Floyd Landis, who accused him of defrauding the postal service.
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Armstrong may make a confession in order to compete in elite triathlon and running competitions, in which he participated after his cycling career. The World Anti-Doping Code rules state that Armstrong’s lifetime ban cannot be reduced to less than eight years. WADA and U.S. Anti-Doping officials could reduce the ban further depending on Armstrong’s cooperation and how much information he provides. In a recent interview, USADA officials said Armstrong’s cooperation could start a “pathway to redemption.”
Last year Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after an investigation headed by the USADA. The agency accused Armstrong of heading a complex drug program comprising of steroids, blood boosters, and other performance enhancers. Chief executive Travis Tygart said it was “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” The final USADA report totalled more than 1,000 pages.