Walsh: USADA decision "convincing and comprehensive"

David Walsh has reiterated USADA’s words in calling the evidence against Lance Armstrong in relation to his doping case as utterly convincing and comprehensive.

Walsh, the author of From Lance to Landis and LA Confidential spent the majority of Wednesday evening poring through USADA’s evidence in their case against Armstrong and the US Postal team. For well over a decade Walsh has battled against doping in cycling, challenging authorities to take action and for riders to speak.

He finally has his wish with USADA's 1,000 page report, 26 sworn testimonies, 11 of which come from Armstrong’s former teammates.

“It was utterly convincing and very comprehensive,” Walsh told Cyclingnews on Thursday morning.

Along with the testimonies and affidavits, the report raised questions over the compliance of the sport’s governing body, the UCI, in their handing of the doping situation during the Armstrong era. Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis both stated under oath that Lance Armstrong informed them that a positive test for EPO would be covered up, while Jonathan Vaughters recalled a conversation in which Armstrong implied that he had the power to have a test nullified.

The UCI has constantly stated that they have never covered up a positive test and that their relationship with Armstrong was above board. However their acceptance of financial donations in the fight against doping from Lance Armstrong has raised questions over both the current president Pat McQuaid and the former president [and now honorary president] Hein Verbruggen.

Verbruggen, 72, went on record last year stating that Armstrong never doped and Walsh now believes a more robust and realistic assessment should be forthcoming.

“I’m waiting to hear what Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid says because those guys have a lot to answer for. How does Hein Verbruggen reflect on what he said about Lance Armstrong in May last year, his 'never, never, never' quote? He couldn’t have known, at the very least, that Armstrong didn’t dope. Yet he said that. Now the question is why did he say that? What motivated him to make a statement that he couldn’t have known to be true? A lot of people would say that even if his eyes had been half open he would have known that the statement was a complete and utter lie. What’s he saying this morning?”

The UCI have a 21-day window in which to respond to USADA’s reasoned decision. They may choose to accept the sanctions put before Armstrong, but such a move may be seen as an admission of their own involvement.

The alternative would be to fight the case and bring it before CAS. A third alternative could involve appealing the six month suspensions handed to Armstrong’s former teammates. One element Walsh is adamant over is that the governing body should immediately drop their defamation case against Paul Kimmage. Not only that, Walsh has called for the UCI to apologize to a generation of riders he feels were left unprotected and abused by a system that facilitated a culture of doping and systematic cheating.

“They shouldn’t be taking a law suit out against Paul Kimmage, they should be apologizing to Paul Kimmage and to all the riders who were completely screwed by a doping culture. Riders who didn’t want to dope, who got out the sport, some who even stayed in and got absolutely hammered on the roads because they were at such a disadvantage because they wouldn’t dope. Why doesn’t the UCI talk about those guys and make an apology to those guys because that’s the very least they could do for the riders who had their careers taken away from them by cheats and those riders who were very well in with the authorities and by that I’m talking about Lance Armstrong. No one was better in with the authorities or a friend to the leadership of the UCI at that time than Lance Armstrong.”

“There’s a real question as to whether the sport can proceed with Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen at the helm. We’ve got a lot of honesty from a lot of riders who were part of US Postal and Discovery Teams. Are we going to get anything like the same honesty from Verbruggen and McQuaid? They might like to talk about the good work the UCI has done in more recent times. I’m sure that will be a natural response from their point of view but too many people were hurt and damaged in the Armstrong era for the UCI not to have responsibility to fess up and say we were part of the problem and not the cure. For the UCI to say that we couldn’t do anything about this is a complete nonsense.”

O'Reilly and Andreu

USADA’s report made for sobering reading. Along with the confessions, riders talked thoroughly on methods used to coerce them into doping: financial gain, pressure and bullying tactics from Armstrong and the US Postal management, as well as an element of fear if they chose not to comply.

But among the murky waters Walsh points to two shining beacons in Emma O'Reilly, a former soigneur on the Postal team, and Betsy Andreu, wife of Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu. Both collaborated with Walsh during his books and were bastions for clean cycling.

“For me they’re the two strongest people in all of this. They’ve been fantastic throughout of this all this. They’ve been strong, always standing up for what was right, and standing up for what was right when it hurt them financially, when it hurt them with stress and people persecuting them. If anyone comes out of this as a hero it’s Emma and Betsy.”

As for Armstrong, the legacy continues to crumble. The UCI must of course examine and respond to USADA's report but the American has already chosen not to fight and told reporters last week that he has a clean conscience.

“I don’t think he’ll confess,” Walsh added.

“He said he’s moved on. I saw he says he has an easy mind but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe he will confess. As long as he doesn’t confess he can’t have closure. It’s simple. The only way this guy can move forward is if this guy holds up his hand and says I have been the greatest liar and the greatest cheat the sport has ever known. That’s the confession now. It isn’t simply a case of saying I doped. Then people would ask, Lance were you the kingpin and did you coerce others to dope?”

That’s a question Armstrong may never answer.

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.