Lance Armstrong has no chance of competing again in sports if he doesn’t divulge every detail of his performance-enhancing drug use, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said.
“Only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath -- and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities -- can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence,” WADA Director General David Howman said in a statement on the anti-doping body’s website last night.
Armstrong two days ago acknowledged using drugs during his cycling career, reversing 13 years of denials by the record seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor who was one of the world’s most revered athletes.
Already stripped of his titles, barred from Olympic sports for life and abandoned by longtime sponsors such as Nike Inc., Oakley Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Armstrong publicly acknowledged doping for the first time in a 2 1/2-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey, the talk-show host said yesterday on “CBS This Morning.”
Winfrey didn’t provide details of the interview, which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network tomorrow and Jan. 18. Tim Herman, Armstrong’s lawyer, declined to comment on Winfrey’s statements in an e-mail.
Armstrong, a 41-year-old American, may testify against cycling officials and others who helped him cheat and cover up doping at the U.S. Postal Service team, the New York Times and CBS News reported, citing unidentified people. That may be another mistake, Rick Burton, the Falk Professor of Sports Management at Syracuse University, said in a telephone interview.
“If he wants to try and take other people down with him or he’s trying to cut a deal with the cycling federation or triathlon federation in order to get back in sports, I think he’s going to get destroyed,” Burton said.
The International Cycling Union, or UCI, said it “would strongly urge” Armstrong to testify to an independent committee looking at the former rider’s relationship with the leadership of cycling’s governing body. WADA and the U.S Anti-Doping Agency, the overseer of U.S. drug rules, said in e-mails yesterday that they won’t join in the UCI probe because the cycling body’s refusal to offer amnesty to those who cooperate puts the inquiry in jeopardy.
Armstrong was accused by Colorado Springs, Colorado-based USADA of doping throughout his career and of having teammates fired if they didn’t also agree to cheat. Anyone who subsequently accused him of wrongdoing was excoriated for impugning him.
Former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, who testified that she heard Armstrong acknowledge doping while undergoing cancer treatment in 1996, said the disgraced cyclist has to repent for ruining other riders’ careers.
“He cheated, lied and defrauded a lot of people for a lot of years,” Frankie Andreu told ESPN Radio. “He destroyed and made life hell for a lot of people. Anybody who crossed his path or didn’t go along with his plan, he set out to take them down.”
Armstrong’s enmity will be difficult for him to recover from, Greg Dale, a professor of sport psychology and sports ethics at Duke University, said in a phone interview.
“Here’s a guy that really did some great things with his ability to raise money and funding for cancer research, but someone who not only was blatantly lying, but viciously attacked and ruined the character of some people who were simply telling the truth,” Dale said. “It’s going to be the most difficult thing for people to accept.”
Armstrong’s finances are likely to take a hit along with his reputation. Justice Department officials have recommended the U.S. government join a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by former teammate Floyd Landis that aims to get sponsorship money back from Armstrong’s former team, CBS News said.
Armstrong also faces a potential $12 million claim from Dallas-based SCA Promotions Inc., which agreed to pay $7.5 million in 2006 to settle a dispute over bonus payments to the cyclist that were held up because of accusations of doping.
He also faces an attempt by the Sunday Times of London to reclaim $1.5 million the newspaper paid to settle a libel case after it printed part of a book that accused Armstrong of doping.
CBS also reported that Armstrong is in talks to return a portion of the millions of taxpayer dollars received by the U.S. Postal team, without saying where it got that information.
Following USADA’s report, Armstrong severed ties with Livestrong, which made him perhaps the best-known public figure in the fight against cancer. The largest athlete-founded charity has raised more than $470 million since 1997, according to its website.
Armstrong began the charity after being diagnosed in 1996 with stage three testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain. He returned to the Tour de France as a champion in 1999, winning the first of seven consecutive titles.
Before the interview with Winfrey at a hotel in downtown Austin, Texas, Armstrong stopped at the Livestrong Foundation and apologized to staff members for letting them down and putting the charity at risk, the Associated Press said.
“It was absolutely the right thing to spend some private time with them and be honest with them,” Ashley McCown, who specializes in crisis communications as president of Boston-based Solomon McCown & Co., said in a telephone interview. “They didn’t deserve to be dragged into this.”
However sincere and complete his admission, Armstrong can’t expect a speedy return to grace, McCown said.
“The jury should be out for him for a while,” she said. “The motivations seem to be rather self-serving and not just about telling the truth once and for all.”