Confessing his doping after years of vehement denials won’t be enough to prevail in either arena, according to those close to the situation. The interview with Winfrey — the specifics of which have not been revealed — is a mere baby step on a longer, more difficult road to redemption.
But as Winfrey went on “CBS This Morning” to publicize her exclusive interview, which will air Thursday and Friday nights, Armstrong’s representatives continued working behind the scenes to reach a settlement with the Justice Department and chart a path for his return to competition, likely in triathlon.
To persuade the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to allow him to compete again, Armstrong must agree to provide specific information about cycling’s doping culture over the past decade: the drugs that riders took, where they got them, how they skirted detection and outfoxed drug tests. Nothing short of a complete “road map” of cycling’s doping era will be persuasive, given Armstrong’s refusal to come forward in June when USADA was building its case against him and was more inclined to negotiate lenient penalties in exchange for information.
A face-to-face conversation in December between Armstrong and USADA CEO Travis Tygart has been described as ending poorly, but USADA’s general counsel Bill Bock said in an interview Tuesday night that it was “civil on both sides.” Tim Herman, a lawyer for Armstrong, described it as “very cordial.” So perhaps the relationship, while often contentious over the past decade, is not irrevocably damaged.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life in October, following USADA’s 1,000-page report portraying him as the mastermind of the most sophisticated doping scheme in sporting history.
According to USADA’s code, a lifetime ban from competition can be scaled back to no fewer than eight years — and that’s assuming the athlete confesses fully and provides new information that helps USADA ensure clean competition in the future.
That’s the sticking point.
Armstrong, 41, isn’t interested in cooperating unless he can return to competition much sooner. He’s arguing that USADA has the latitude to lessen that penalty, as it did with the cyclists who confessed their own doping in testifying against him in June. They were suspended six months.
Armstrong’s negotiating window with the Justice Department is much shorter. Unless both parties agree to an extension, the Justice Department must decide by Thursday whether to join a whistleblower suit filed by Floyd Landis, another disgraced cyclist who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title.