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Lance Armstrong Wants a Level "Playing Field" for Punishment



Lance Armstrong is requesting that he be given a level "playing field" with regard to punishment, as other cyclists who have either been caught, or have confessed to doping, have been given. Furthermore, the disgraced cyclist is questioning the validity of the process that is currently in place that determines who gets what for punishment.

"I’ve experienced massive personal loss … while others have truly capitalised on this story".

"Do I think that this process has been good for cycling?" he said in a interview.

"No. I don’t think our sport has been served well by going back 15 years.

"I don’t think that any sport, or any political scenario, is well served going back 15 years. And if you go back 15 years, you might as well go back 30."

However, the seven time Tour de France winner said he would testify with:

"100% transparency and honesty" at any future inquiry after the new president of the UCI, Brian Cookson, announced an independent commission to get to the bottom of drug use in the sport. A spokesman for world cycling’s governing bodysaid: "We will be making contact with him once the exact terms of the UCI independent commission have been agreed. He and other high-profile riders will be treated the same as any other witness."

 

The United States Anti-Doping Agency had accused Armstrong of conducting " the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program cycling has ever seen". And, Armstrong said he would be prepared to take any punishment as long as it was on a level playing field:

"If everyone gets the death penalty, then I’ll take the death penalty.

"If everyone gets a free pass, I’m happy to take a free pass. If everyone gets six months, then I’ll take my six months."

But he bemoans the cost to himself, both in terms of his reputation and the threat to his own personal fortune, estimated to be around $150 million. 

"It’s been tough," he said. "It’s been real tough. I’ve paid a high price in terms of my standing within the sport, my reputation, certainly financially because the lawsuits have continued to pile up.

"I have experienced massive personal loss, massive loss of wealth while others have truly capitalised on this story."

The head of USADA, Travis Tygart, said today that he hoped Armstrong would cooperate with the investigation but that it was "premature" to talk about a reduction in his life ban from organised sport should he do so.

"I think it’s premature until he comes in and is truthful on all fronts," Tygart said.

"Technically it’s legally possible under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code that currently exists. That said, it all depends on the assistance and the value. Certainly the value of the information is less today than it was 12 months ago or back in June of 2012 when we were bringing the case.

"And clean athletes have suffered, to a certain extent, because of his delay and his refusal to come in. That said, we’re hopeful and we want it to happen. It ultimately would be good for the sport, which is our goal. It would be good for him. It would help him for the public forgiving if he was finally truthful on all fronts."

Tygart spoke in an interview in Cape Town ahead of this week’s world conference on doping in sport, a four-day summit that will deal with issues emanating from the Armstrong scandal.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life last year after USADA"s investigation.

He has claimed he was "singled out" by USADA, and that the agency had a personal "vendetta" against him. Tygart said he had not read Armstrong’s comments, but there was nothing personal for USADA. 

"Their goal was to make it personal against us, you know, so that we would get the pressure and I would get the death threats and my family would get the death threats," Tygart said. "Play one out of the defence playbook is to identify a single person and then vilify them.

"And that’s how you try to bully them or intimidate them or scare them away from doing the job and exposing the truth that they know our job was to expose. Look, we were very methodical, very judicial. It’s a very clinical process. We went through it, treated him the same as everyone else was treated."

Tygart said he felt "compassion" for Armstrong and his family as he was really "no worse" than a lot of other riders. But "he was the one that won, obviously. He was the one that profited the most," Tygart said.

"It can’t be a good situation where he’s at right now," Tygart said. "That was a large part why we gave the opportunity back in June 2012 to come forward. We were as disappointed as anyone back then when they rejected that and went on the attack. And we still, I think, remain open."

Armstrong has said that a truth and reconciliation commission for international cycling is crucial. It’s something that WADA and the UCI’s new leadership may make progress on in Johannesburg this week.

"We’ve been pushing for it from day one," Tygart said. "When we saw the evidence that we saw during the course of this investigation, we knew this was not just about one individual athlete. It was about a system that corrupted a sport.

"To get to the bottom of the dark culture during that time is critically important for the success of the sport going forward."


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