David Walsh, the author of From Lance to Landis and LA Confidential has welcomed the news that Lance Armstrong will not contest USADA’s charges relating to alleged doping offences during the Texan’s cycling career. Armstrong looks set to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, although the UCI may appeal that decision to CAS.
“I’m pleased that it’s come to this and that he’s accepted the charges against him. I’m disappointed that it didn’t go to arbitration because that would have given us the details as to why this process was so necessary,” Walsh told Cyclingnews.
“For me it’s a good day in at least that some guy who has been incredibly cynical has his just desserts. But the investigation should really be much deeper than Lance Armstrong. Who are the people who protected him? Are they still in cycling, are they still controlling cycling? Even the most neutral observer would say that cycling has been incredibly badly served by its leadership.”
Walsh, who was sued by Armstrong in relation to his book LA Confidential, went on to explain that he feels no sense of vindication. Armstrong still denies doping during his career and despite a US court ruling otherwise, believes that the UCI should hold jurisdiction over the results management of sport. According to Armstrong, the actions of USADA amount to a ‘witch hunt’.
“People have been saying to me for a number of years now, because it was perfectly clear to most intelligent people that Armstrong had been doping, and they asked if I felt vindication because I was accusing him for many years. I’ve never felt vindicated because I’ve never needed vindication in my life. I was never sure of anything more in my life than that this guy and his team were doping and that was form the very first Tour in 1999.”
“It’s just wrong that guys who were riding the race clean and never appeared in the top 20 were screwed by a corrupt system and in my view a system that couldn’t not have remained corrupt without the complicity of the people who run the sport, the race organisers, the sponsors, the cycling journalists. Too many people turned a blind eye to something that was obviously wrong and they did it for all the wrong reasons.”
Although Walsh has refrained from covering the Tour de France in recent years he was a permanent figure on the race circuit throughout the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. However, as his suspicions and stance became more and resolute he didn’t just find enemies in Armstrong’s camp, as even sections of the press corps turned their backs on him.
“In 2004 I was meant to travel in a car that had an American writer, a British writer and an Australian writer and I had travelled with them many times. I first travelled with the English journalist back in 1984, if memory serves me. They didn’t want me in the car because Armstrong’s team had made it known to them that they wouldn’t get a lot of cooperation if I was in the car. And rather than stand by journalism they chose to do what was expedient but that’s what people did. Pretty much every English speaking journalist on the Tour in those early Armstrong years was in one way or another trying to defend Armstrong.”
“When you think of all the nonsense we had to listen to about Armstrong being faster than Pantani in '98. Armstrong goes and rides a faster Tour a year later and you have all these idiot journalists saying, well the roads and the bikes are better, it’s logical. It was all completely illogical and if they were being honest they would have known this.”
“You still see it today. There are still some journalists going out from England to cover the Tour who half believe that Armstrong is innocent, who have been defending him. Complete buffoons.”
So what of the Tour de France and its murky history book? If Armstrong is finally stripped of his Tour victories it’s unlikely that the sport will rejoice in handed down celebrations for Jan Ullrich, Alex Zülle, Andreas Klöden and Ivan Basso.
“The history of the Tour de France, over the last 20 years, since EPO and blood boosting drugs were big, the history of the Tour de France has been bunkum. It’s hasn’t been a story of triumph and great achievement, it’s been a story of corruption and innocent people who rode the race clean being screwed. They were the people we always needed to stand up for. The spiritual leader of that peloton was Christophe Bassons and we all remember what happened to him in 1999.”