Lance Armstrong won’t be contesting the charges leveled against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the evidence against him won’t come out. USADA head Travis Tygart says his agency will be presenting a reasoned decision to the World Anti-Doping Agency in the coming weeks.
Tygart says his main goal in all of this is to clean up the sport from the top — meaning doctors and sport directors — on down through the line to clean up the drug culture in all sports, including cycling. He said the Armstrong decision was made at this point due to recent overwhelming evidence that Armstrong and his teammates were part of a sophisticated doping program.
Travis Tygart joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss why the decision was made now, what would have happened if Armstrong decided to fight back, if he thinks Armstrong was afraid of court, his respect for Armstrong, his response to Armstrong’s claims that he’s passed about 500 drug tests, how the cyclists cheated and the number of cyclists he believes were involved in doping.
Why the decision now?:
“Well, the evidence that we’ve received over the last few months was just overwhelming, unfortunately, that Lance Armstrong and the other participants on the U.S. Postal Service pro cycling team participated in a very professionalized and sophisticated doping program all aimed to win. Really, under our rules and our obligation on behalf of clean athletes and all athletes at every level, who want to compete without having to use dangerous, performance-enhancing drugs, we had an obligation to initiate the process and allow the legal process to ensue. … Lance Armstrong chose not to contest that, so that’s now on him.”
If he would have decided to fight this, what would you have done?:
“We, frankly, we would have welcomed that opportunity. It’s every athlete’s right within our system and we would have had an open legal process where every piece of evidence, bit by bit, piece by piece, would have been presented in open court to the arbitration process. He and his lawyers would have the opportunity to cross-examine it, to confront it, to argue that it wasn’t reliable or didn’t prove what we believed and are confident that it proved.”
Do you think Armstrong was afraid of getting in front of the court?:
“It’s hard to say, but I think at the end of the day, yeah. The better move now for him is to walk away on these terms and hold onto a sound byte with no basis about an unfair process or a witch hunt or a personal vendetta and all these things that you’ve heard. Because I think it would’ve been much tougher had all that evidence, over a two-week, three-week period of time, under oath, been presented on the stand. We’ll be providing a reasoned decision based on that evidence to the International Federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency, so I think in the weeks to come, that will be revealed in paper form.”
Do you respect Lance Armstrong?:
“I think there’s a bad culture in the sport and we really saw the win-at-all-costs culture take over. I think he did what a lot of other athletes did at that time. A number of them, when we confronted them with all the evidence we saw, came forward and were truthful and sat down with us and said, ‘Yeah, here’s everything that went on and here’s how we did it and here’s who was involved and here’s who taught us to beat the test.’ They helped and they felt bad about what they were put into and the decisions they were forced to make. … He chose to go an entirely different route and, unfortunately, this is the conclusion at this stage, at least, that results from it. I don’t fault any athlete to succumbing or being tempted to the pressures.”
How do you respond to Lance saying he’s passed close to 500 drug tests?:
“Look, we’ve asked to see the proof of that. I’m not sure that’s accurate. At the end of the day, we know athletes, and Marion Jones made the same claim. There were the ’99 Tour de France samples that were retested. There was the 2001 evidence that we have that there was [something] suspicious indicative of EPO use that didn’t go forward. There was the ’99 glucocorticosteroid and we have evidence of cover-up of that positive. And then we included the analytical data from ’09 and ’10 that, in our charge letter, clearly indicates manipulation of his blood at that time. That is corroborated by other evidence that we have.”
How did they beat the tests?:
“One was they would use plasma expanders. They would use saline expanders so they would have notice of the test or they would delay being tested and then they would use substances that would easily mask the things they were doing. They were also using things like blood transfusions … which, unfortunately, there’s not a current test for. There’s good indications that can be drawn from that data I just mentioned to you of the ’09 and ’10 blood data that we have and presented to him.”
Do you think most riders used?:
“At that time, I think, not unlike baseball in the late 90s and early 2000s, the culture of drug use overtook the rules. I think, like Senator Mitchell, we got handed a really bad, terrible set of facts, and we had an obligation to weed through those facts and appropriately and responsibly piece those facts together. Our number one objective, and this was told to every athlete that we spoke to, including Lance Armstrong, was to ensure that the doctors, the sport director that’s still in the sport, are no longer allowed to continue to advising young athletes and grooming young athletes to do what we’ve seen this U.S. Postal Service team do.”