Lance Armstrong begins road back to redemption

Lance Armstrong  is willing to assist future investigations into doping despite using performance-enhancing drugs. Picture: AP
Lance Armstrong is willing to assist future investigations into doping despite using performance-enhancing drugs. Picture: AP
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Lance Armstrong has said he will answer with “100 per cent transparency and honesty” at any doping inquiry but also wants the authorities to be consistent in any punishments they impose.

The 42-year-old Texan was stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won from 1999 to 2005 and banned from competitive sport for life last year after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong is willing to help any future investigation into doping but wants everybody to be treated consistently and fairly, claiming some people in the past have been given a “total free pass” while others have had a “death penalty”.

He said in an interview with BBC’s World Service: “I’m keen do whatever I can to help close the chapter and help the sport move forward. Certainly I would speak with 100 per cent transparency and honesty.

“All that I would say is that we had a very consistent pattern of behaviour for 20 years in cycling, very consistent, and yet the punishment and the toll that’s taken on some has not been consistent.

“You’ve had some people with a total free pass, you’ve had some people with a death penalty, for consistent behaviour.

“So all that I would hope for is that people are treated consistently and fairly. If everybody gets the death penalty, then I’ll take the death penalty. If everybody gets a free pass, well I’m happy to take a free pass. If everybody gets six months, then I’ll take my six months.

“I sum this up like this: The playing field at the time was level, the justice served here has been anything but level.”

New UCI president Brian Cookson, who replaced Pat McQuaid in September, has made it a priority of his to tackle cycling’s problems with doping and hopes Armstrong will play a part in doing that. The disgraced cyclist is happy to do that but concedes some people will question his integrity.

He said: “I’m well aware of that. I don’t have a whole lot of credibility and there will probably be a faction that says that, but what can I do?

“People are just going to have to decide whether or not it’s the truth. I’ve got nothing to lose now.”

Armstrong also revealed that life has been “really tough” for him since his television interview with Oprah Winfrey in January when, after years of denials, he admitted doping during all seven of his Tour victories.

He told Winfrey he used blood-boosting agent EPO, blood doping, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone.

“It’s been tough,” Armstrong told the BBC. “It’s been really tough. I’ve paid a high price in terms of my standing within the sport, my reputation, certainly financially because the lawsuits have continued to pile up.

“I have experienced massive personal loss, massive loss of wealth while others have truly capitalised on this story.”

On whether he regrets doing the interview, Armstrong said: “I was going to have to answer the questions anyway. There were plenty of lawsuits in place that would have put me in the cross-hairs.

“Now do I think this process has been good for cycling? No, I don’t. I don’t think our sport has been served well by going back 15 years.

“I don’t think any sport, or any political scenario or any government, I don’t think anybody is well served going back 15 years. And if we’re going to go back 15 years, then we might as well go back 30.”

Meanwhile, Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency said yesterday that Armstrong must co-operate fully and be “truthful on all fronts” if he wants to win back some of his reputation and help cycling recover from its drug-stained past.

There has been speculation that Armstrong may seek a lessening of his sanction in return for helping USADA’s ongoing investigation into doping in cycling. But Tygart said: “I think it’s premature [to talk about it] until he comes in and is truthful on all fronts. Technically it’s legally possible under the WADA code that currently exists. That said, it all depends on the assistance and the value. Certainly the value of the information is less today than it was 12 months ago, or back in June of 2012 when we were bringing the case.

“And clean athletes have suffered, to a certain extent, because of his delay and his refusal to come in. That said, we’re overly hopeful and we want it to happen. It ultimately would be good for the sport, which is our goal. It would be good for him.”

Armstrong claimed he was “singled out” by USADA and that the agency had a personal “vendetta” against him, but Tygart insisted: “We were very methodical, very judicial. We went through it, treated him the same as everyone else was.”