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Questioning the accuser – We speak with “LA Confidential” author David Walsh

  • By VeloNews.com
  • Published Jun. 18, 2004

By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Walsh and another famous Irishman

Photo: PhotoSport International (file photo)

David Walsh declines to answer when asked if he truly believes thatLance Armstrong has used performance-enhancing drugs.

The Irishman, co-author of the just-released “LA Confidential — TheSecrets of Lance Armstrong,” suggests that “it is not relevant what I think. (Pierre Ballester and I) have done what journalists are supposed to do: we have asked questions. Many, many people have helped by providing answers. We then write a book and the reader gets the chance to make up his or her own mind. What matters is the evidence of those who worked and rode with Lance Armstrong. The people who have been in his world.” (see “Upcomingbook alleges Armstrong involved in doping“)

In an exclusive interview with VeloNews, Walsh the long-timeSunday Times of London sports writer discussed a variety of topicsincluding pending legal action by Armstrong, why Emma O’Reilly decidedto speak out against her old boss and how he believes the five-time Tourde France winner has managed to never fail a drug test.

Questioning the accuser – We speak with “LA Confidential” author David Walsh

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VeloNews: Why did you write this book?

David Walsh: I did a story on Lance Armstrong in 2001 and I feltthat it raised a lot of questions. It was not definitive, but it revealedhis relationship with Doctor (Michele) Ferrari.

It left me with a lingering feeling of unfinished business, and it wassomething that I always wanted to get to the heart of. Both Pierre andI felt that the Lance Armstrong phenomenon was something that hadto be examined.

VN: Why release the book now, on the eve of Armstrong’s attemptto win Tour No. 6?

DW: We’re not in this to make a bunch of money and we’re notgoing to make a bunch of money. This is the time of the year when peopleare most interested in cycling. We’re not just going to release the bookat a time when it is convenient to someone else. We wanted to put it outthere when it would get the most attention.

VN: Were you surprised at how quickly Lance decided to pursuelegal action (see “Armstrongcomes out swinging“) and are you concerned?

DW: Not at all. We stand by everything in this book. He is suingthe messengers. But the people who are the real source of angst for LanceArmstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team are the people who deliveredthe testimony in this book.

We’re fully committed to what we have done and we’ll defend that atany cost. If we didn’t do this we should take our journalist cards andjust hand them in. If we didn’t do this we’d just be an extension of theentertainment industry like so much of the media already is.

VN: Will we see an English version of the book?
DW: There’s been interest from some American media outlets,but right now I can’t reveal too much. I do believe that it will come outin English, though. There is a huge amount of fascinating information inthis book.

VN: Why do you think Emma O’Reilly decided to talk?

DW: I think maybe it started when Marco Pantani died. Emma knewhis soigneur and she was really shaken by his death. I think that she sensedthat if she stayed quiet she was contributing to this. She just felt like‘Why not? Why should I stay quiet?’ It was a friendship based on the workplace,and since she left the team she has never heard from them. It’s becomejust two ships passing in the night.

VN: Why should people believe Emma O’Reilly?
DW: Emma’s character has been vouched for. People all speakglowingly of Emma. Mark Gorski has been quoted as saying that Emma wasthe “heart and soul” of the team. The reason she can speak now is thatshe was never part of the doping culture.

VN: Was she paid for doing the interview?

DW: No.

VN: Why hasn’t Lance ever tested positive?

DW: Well for starters he did test positive in 1999, butthat test was nullified because they came up with a medical exemption afterthe fact. Lance had said that he didn’t have any medical exemptions, butafter the positive test an exemption appeared and the UCI then said theyhad seen the prescription before.

But basically today you are talking about drugs… that are very hardto detect.

[The UCI and the Tour de France instituted a new test for Corticosteroids.On July 19, 1999 – in the middle of Armstrong’s first successful assaulton the Tour – the French newspaper Le Monde ran an article citing laboratorysources as saying that samples from several riders – including Armstrong–had shown traces of the banned drug. The levels were below those requiredto show a positive on the new test, but the results raised suspicions.The UCI later confirmed the result, but noted that the traces were fromArmstrong’s use of the topical ointment Cemalyt. The governing body alsolater announced that it had a prescription on record. As a result of boththe low levels and the prescription, the test result is not officiallyconsidered to be a “positive.” - Editor]

VN: What will people take away from reading this book?
DW: It’s 388 pages with no pictures. It’s a very serious book.If you go into it with an open mind, I think you will learn a lot.

VN: What will you learn?
DW: That the story of Lance Armstrong, as we know it, is notthe complete story.


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