Even when Lance Armstrong portrayed himself as coming clean about his career spent cheating to win, he was still lying.
That’s the argument U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart made Sunday evening on the CBS show “60 Minutes,” in an interview with Scott Pelley for a segment called “The Fall of Lance Armstrong.”
Tygart sat down with Pelley to rebut several claims Armstrong made during his interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was televised on January 17-18.
Among the statements that Tygart said were categorically untrue: that Armstrong had raced free of performance-enhancing drugs during his 2009 and 2010 comeback; that his representatives had not offered USADA a $250,000 “donation”; that Armstrong had not pushed his teammates toward cheating; and that Armstrong had only used a small amount of EPO from 1999 through 2005.
Armstrong told Winfrey that the last time he had “crossed that line” — i.e., used performance-enhancing drugs — was in 2005. Asked about using blood transfusions in 2009 and 2010, Armstrong replied, “Absolutely not.”
Tygart told Pelley that Armstrong lied to Winfrey and her television audience.
“[It's] just contrary to the evidence,” Tygart told Pelley, referring to Armstrong’s blood values during those years. “[There's a] one in a million chance that it was due to something other than doping.”
Tygart said he believes Armstrong is lying about his doping in 2009 and 2010 to avoid criminal charges for conspiracy to defraud.
“There’s a five-year statute on a fraud criminal charge,” Tygart said. “So the five years today would have been expired. However, if the last point of his doping as we alleged and proved in our reasoned decision was in 2010, then the statute has not yet expired and he potentially could be charged with a criminal violation for conspiracy to defraud.”
Tygart also disputed Armstrong’s claim that his doping during that era was just leveling the playing field.
“It’s just simply not true,” he said.”The access they had to inside information — to how the tests work, what tests went in place at what time, special access to the laboratory … he was on an entirely different playing field to all the other athletes — even if you assume all the other athletes had access to some doping products.”
Asked about Armstrong’s denial of allegations that the UCI had covered up a 2001 positive drug test at the Tour of Switzerland, Tygart said evidence gathered by USADA indicates otherwise.
“I think [UCI’s] involvement was a lot deeper in him pulling off this heist than he was willing to admit to,” Tygart said.
The USADA CEO also attacked Armstrong for telling Winfrey that he hadn’t truly cheated, because using doping products was just leveling the playing field.
While admitting having used banned substances, Armstrong tiptoed around the idea of being a cheat, saying: “I looked up the definition of cheating and the definition is ‘to gain an advantage on a rival or foe.’ I did not view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
“It’s amazing,” Tygart said. “You could go to almost any kindergarten in this country or frankly around the world and find kids playing tag or four-square and ask them what cheating is. Every one of them will tell you that cheating is breaking the rules of the game. No real athlete has to look up the definition of cheating.”
Regarding his assertion that one of Armstrong’s representatives had offered a $250,000 donation to USADA in 2004, Tygart told Pelley: “I received a phone call from one of his closest associates and they offered us the money … it’s one of his closest representatives. I’ve told the federal government in its investigation on the civil-fraud side, so I don’t think it would be appropriate now to name the name because it’s still one of his closest representatives.”
Tygart sat down with Armstrong in Denver in December to discuss a full confession. However, that meeting ended when Armstrong walked out in anger.
USADA has given Armstrong a February 6 deadline to cooperate by answering any and all of its questions to open the possibility that the agency might cut his lifetime ban to eight years.
“If you traffic, if you distribute, if you possess, if you use the number of substances that he used over the period of time that he used, then you cover it up and you refuse to come in and be part of the solution, the rules mandate a lifetime ban,” Tygart said. “But the lowest his ban could go under the rules would be to an eight-year suspension.”
If Armstrong does not speak with USADA by February 6, his lifetime ban will be irreversible, Pelley reported.
Armstrong attorney Tim Herman told The Associated Press last week that it was “not possible” for his client to speak with USADA due to “pre-existing obligations,” adding that Armstrong would be willing to work with WADA and the UCI if they formed a truth-and-reconciliation commission — but not with USADA.
“USADA has no authority to investigate, prosecute or otherwise involve itself with the other 95 percent of cycling competitors,” Herman told AP. “Thus, in order to achieve the goal of ‘cleaning up cycling,’ it must be WADA and the UCI who have overall authority to do so.”
On Friday, UCI President Pat McQuaid said he was willing to start a truth-and-reconciliation commission with WADA.