Lance Armstrong said Wednesday that he will not cooperate with a US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation into dope cheats in cycling but would be willing to help other anti-doping inquiries.
The move greatly diminishes Armstrong’s chances of having his life ban from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-sanctioned sport reduced even as it forces USADA to move ahead without his help in looking into others involved in doping.
“For several reasons, Lance will not participate in USADA’s efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95 percent of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction,” Armstrong said in a statement released through attorney Tim Herman.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after a USADA probe uncovered overwhelming evidence he was at the heart of a major doping conspiracy, including testimony from 26 witnesses, was released last October.
After admitting in a television interview last month that the titles he won from 1999-2005 were helped by performance-enhancing substances, Armstrong said he would cooperate with anti-doping officials.
He repeated that offer on Wednesday even as he made it clear he would not go through USADA to do so.
“Lance is willing to cooperate fully and has been very clear: He will be the first man through the door, and once inside will answer every question, at an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport,” the statement said.
“We remain hopeful that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result.”
USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart had given Armstrong a February 6 deadline to testify under oath on what he knew about such subjects as cycling team manager Johan Bruyneel’s role in the conspiracy, details of how the scheme unfolded or if International Cycling Union (UCI) officials knew about it.
Armstrong said he would not be able to meet that deadline so Tygart extended the deadline to Wednesday, only to learn Armstriong would not be coming when the disgraced cyclist released his statement to the media.
“Today we learned from the media that Mr. Armstrong is choosing not to come in and be truthful and that he will not take the opportunity to work toward righting his wrongs in sport,” Tygart said in a statement.
“At this time we are moving forward with our investigation without him and we will continue to work closely with WADA and other appropriate and responsible international authorities to fulfill our promise to clean athletes to protect their right to compete on a drug free playing field.”
Failing to cooperate with USADA all-but dooms Armstrong’s chance of reducing his life ban to an eight-year ban, only a possibility for providing substantial assistance to anti-doping authorities under WADA’s code.
“We have provided Mr. Armstrong several opportunities to assist in our ongoing efforts to clean up the sport of cycling,” Tygart said.
“Following his recent television interview, we again invited him to come in and provide honest information and he was informed in writing by WADA that this was the appropriate avenue for him if he wanted to be part of the solution.
“Over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA, but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so.”
Armstrong, 41, faces two major lawsuits that could be impacted by any testimony he gives under oath.
A Texas insurance firm sued Armstrong on February 7 seeking $12 million for bonus money paid to Armstrong for the Tour de France triumphs that are now null and void.
Former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis, himself an admitted dope cheat who lost the 2006 Tour de France crown because of doping, is suing Armstrong on grounds that Armstrong deceived sponsors US Postal Service by claiming to be winning his titles without using performance-enhancing drugs.
In his television confessional to Oprah Winfrey last month, Armstrong contradicted several parts of USADA’s investigation, saying he had stopped doping after 2005 and was not a ringleader in the doping programme.
Tygart, in a later television interview, said Armstrong had lied to Winfrey because USADA evidence showed he was doping when he rode in the Tour de France two final times in 2009 and 2010.
According to Tygart, expert reports based on the variation of Armstrong’s blood values make it a “one to a million chance that it was due to something other than doping.”