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Lance Armstrong’s ongoing bid to have his lifetime ban reduced has always hinged on him cooperating with anti-doping officials and providing new information advantageous in pursuing additional cases, but the rider has been reluctant to cooperate until now.
Indeed while he met with the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) during its year-long investigation into cycling’s troubled past, that body declined to recommend any ban reduction.
This was likely due to limitations CyclingTips understands that his lawyers put on the questions which could be asked.
However there are now indications that Armstrong may be getting serious about what he can offer up, with the New York Times stating that a source has told it that Armstrong and US Anti Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart met near Denver International Airport last week.
Tygart’s USADA was the body responsible for handing down the lifetime ban to Armstrong in 2012. That caused bitter feelings on Armstrong’s part, but relations were already strained due to the long – and ultimately successful – efforts by USADA to skewer him over his doping past, plus Armstrong’s own attempts to fight back against the agency.
Those efforts are thought to have included a political push by a lobbyist working for Armstrong’s former foundation Livestrong against USADA’s funding.
While Tygart declined to confirm the recent meeting with Armstrong, the New York Times reports that Armstrong had told close friends that the meeting went well and that he was hopeful of further discussions.
The newspaper added that he wants to reach an agreement which would enable him to compete in top-level triathlons.
It said that former pro rider Scott Mercier helped arrange the meeting between his past US Postal team-mate and USADA.
Tygart declined to comment on the meeting, or even confirm that it took place, but he said that USADA’s previous statements hoping that Armstrong would sit down with the agency and have a full discussion remained the agency’s position.
He said that he was pleasantly surprised by Armstrong’s comment to CIRC that he was “genuinely sorry for what had happened. I think he has a lot to offer antidoping. So I am hopeful.”
However he stressed that it was too soon to talk about any reduction in the sanction.
Speaking about past efforts to get Armstrong to talk, he said that a lot of time and effort could have been spared had he spoken up sooner.
“It was a huge missed opportunity,” he stated. “It would have gotten rid of the leadership of the UCI. a lot quicker, and it would have gotten rid of other people in the system who were implicated in doping.
“We are clearly in a different position now than we were then. A lot of what we hoped Lance could tell us then has subsequently been proven.”
He said there was no hard feelings against Armstrong, despite what the Texan had said about himself and USADA in the past.
“You have to remember all the hangers-on, all the money that was at stake, all these sponsors and people tipping champagne glasses after the Tour wins,” he said. “That was where his team went over the top and bullied and abused people.
“When you have never been held accountable, when you feel that you run the world, and the people close to you are telling you that you run the world, it can perhaps lead to a response like that.”
He said the goal now is to find a scenario where both anti-doping and Armstrong could benefit from their talks.
It seems clear that if Armstrong makes genuine efforts to help USADA step up the fight against doping, that his lifetime ban might not be as permanent as the description suggests.