WADA president John Fahey has indicated that Lance Armstrong’s lifetime ban from sport may be reduced if he cooperates fully with USADA. The US Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong for life last year after they uncovered that the US Postal team and its leadership ran what they believed was the most sophisticated doping programme sport had ever seen.
After deciding not to fight USADA’s charges or to co-operate, Armstrong lost all seven of his Tour de France titles as well receiving the lifetime ban. Since admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong has discussed the possibility of appearing in front of a Truth and Reconciliation commission.
Speaking in London at WADA’s media symposium, Fahey admitted that the chance of Armstrong cooperation was slim but that USADA were the primary body for Armstrong to talk to. In an interview with Cyclingnews last month, Armstrong stated that WADA were the only body he would potentially cooperate with.
“As to the Armstrong case it’s done and dusted. It’s over. He’s got life,” Fahey said.
“This was an individual who masterminded one of the most systematic and widespread doping frauds in the history of sport. It’s not an excuse to say other riders were doping and therefore I also had to cheat. It’s not an excuse that the rigorous demands for the sport make it necessary to take performance enhancing drugs."
"The reality is that Mr Armstrong cheated for more than a decade, bullied others into cheating, bullied others who would dare to expose his cheating and to this day he continues to manipulate the facts to his own benefit."
“The only possible chance of something changing is if Lance Armstrong indicates to USADA that he will give evidence under oath. Not on some television programme, under oath and to the proper authorities and subject himself to proper cross examination, and if it's of substance, it might well be that USADA consider reducing the life term to a minimum of eight years.
“That’s a possibility but I see no indication of Mr Armstrong having any willingness to do that and I would be very surprised if he does. I'd love to see it but I’d be very surprised if it ever happened.”
Crisis of confidence within cycling
While WADA’s stance on Armstrong may be clear, their ongoing public spat with the UCI continues. There has been little love lost between the two bodies, with the relationship boiling over during the Postal scandal. Last August UCI president Pat McQuaid stated that WADA had a vendetta against cycling, while in recent weeks the two organisations have taken to trading blows in the media over the dissolution of the UCI’s less-than-independent commission.
Fahey stopped short of calling for institutional change within the Aigle offices but strongly pressed for change from within the sport. The comments come at a time when McQuaid will be attempting to gather support for his presidency run later this year.
“Only cycling can heal the problems that cycling has. They run their own sport so if their members continue to allow the sport to lurch from one crisis to another then I guess we’ll continue to read about turmoil in that sport. I would hope that within the rank and file membership of cycling there’s a recognition that they can’t continue in this way,” Fahey said.
“I have an enormous regard for cycling but this seems to just go on. I for the life of me cannot believe that after all of these years we still see matters unfold that indicate that all is not well with the sport.”
Fahey turned back to WADA’s initial position relating to the independent commission, stating that the UCI’s terms of reference made it impossible for the movement to gather momentum and most importantly credibility. Since the UCI dissolved the commission, there has been movement by both WADA and the UCI to grudgingly reconcile, however WADA have adamantly stated on numerous occasions that any commission should be independent of both WADA and the UCI. Fahey added that the UCI had contacted WADA on Monday, again reiterating a call for a 'truth and reconciliation' body.
“We originally tried to make some changes to help make the enquiry effective but there was no interest. The rest seems to go back and forth in the media. The information we get seems to come through the media and then we read about it in letters. Having said that we need to try and have better operations in all sports and that’s what cycling deserves. I’m still optimistic and I still have an open mind but I’m still frustrated.”
“Cycling has a problem, it has a crisis in confidence I would hope it can sort out it’s problems but we have an open door and an open mind.”