BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Lance Armstrong may open up to the the United States Anti-Doping Agency after all.
USADA confirmed Wednesday afternoon the disgraced cyclist was in talks with the agency, and that Armstrong has been granted a two-week extension to determine if, and how, he can help mop up a sport’s floor upon which he was a stain himself.
“We have been in communication with Mr. Armstrong and his representatives and we understand that he does want to be part of the solution and assist in the effort to clean up the sport of cycling,” said USADA CEO Travis Tygart in a statement. “We have agreed to his request for an additional two weeks to work on details to hopefully allow for this to happen.”
Wednesday was the deadline for Armstrong to cooperate with USADA — the anti-doping body that eviscerated his career results when it proved he doped his way to seven now-stripped Tour wins — if he hoped to avoid the lifetime ban he’s been saddled with.
Armstrong attorney Tim Herman had previously told The Associated Press on January 26 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.”
Armstrong, it appears, has reconsidered. The two-week extension will give the two sides time to work together, though it’s unclear how soon Armstrong could return to competition, as both international and U.S. doping codes say the ban cannot be any shorter than eight years for doping sins of Armstrong’s magnitude.
If Armstrong’s ban is reduced to eight years, he will be nearly 50 years old by the time he can compete in sanctioned endurance sports, from triathlons to bike races to marathons.
Armstrong confessed to doping in each Tour win and throughout his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January, though the public admission left many wanting, including America’s top doping cop, Tygart.
In an interview on “60 Minutes,” Tygart said Armstrong was still lying, and that he would need to tell the complete truth to see his ban reduced.
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.
“[It’s] just contrary to the evidence,” Tygart told interviewer Scott 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 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.
Soon, there may be an entirely different truth on the table.