Late on Friday night I made the mistake of logging on to Twitter. It was far too late to be on there, but there was nothing on TV so I thought I’d check to see if anything was going on. It was then I saw a few tweets about an imminent confession from Lance Armstrong.

It caught my interest so I clicked around a bit to see what I could find. There was nothing out there. I waited several minutes to see if anything else was tweeted then realised nothing was going to happen, turned off my computer and went to bed.

I logged back on Saturday morning to read Juliet Macur’s piece on the New York Times website which broke the story that Armstrong is speaking with anti-doping officials in America about making a confession.

Armstrong’s lawyers wouldn’t confirm it and he has much to lose if he does admit to doping during his cycling career, but it has caught everyone’s interest, not just mine. There are four subjects that are guaranteed to cause a storm in the cycling community: Mandatory helmet use, riders not waving back once they’ve been waved at, the cost of Rapha clothing, and Lance Armstrong.  

This latest Armstrong development was always going to get the cycling world in a fluster. My advice is not to get too excited just yet.

Confessions aren’t always of much use. Take Steven de Jongh’s for example. Last year the Dutchman admitted to taking EPO during his career and had to leave Team Sky because of it. I met de Jongh on several occasions, even went for a couple of early morning rides with him on a Team Sky training camp, and always found him to be friendly, approachable and honest.

His confession however, was worthless. Worse in fact, it strengthened the omerta. In his open letter, de Jongh said that he acted alone when he took EPO “on a few occasions” between 1998 and 2000. This simply doesn’t hold true. He’s saying as a 25-year-old bike rider he bought and administered a medical product without any help from anyone? Where did he hear about it? Where did he buy it from? How did he know when and how to take it, how much to take and what to take with it? And are we to believe he did all this alone while riding for a team that was arrested en mass and booted out of the 1998 Tour for drug use.

The danger of his half confession is that it protects the people who enabled, or even encouraged him to do it. People who may still be working in the sport somewhere, who may still be pushing doping products on riders. De Jongh didn’t have to out these people in his confession when he left Sky, but why not offer to speak to anti-doping authorities behind closed doors and give them an honest account of what happened, leaving them to decide what to do next?

I fear that any confession from Armstrong would be similarly pointless, very carefully managed and 100 per cent self-serving – the risks to him are too great not to be.

In her piece, Macur suggests Armstrong’s primary desire is to resume his athletic career – most likely in triathlon – by bargaining with anti-doping officials over his lifetime ban. His latest tweets show how hard he is training in the pool (swimming multiple 100m sets on 1:15min is high quality swimming), too intense to just be keeping fit, especially for a 41 year old.

But why should USADA or anyone else now believe what he has to say? This was his line of attack against Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton after they bared their souls to the American anti-doping authorities. Armstrong said that as they had cheated during their cycling career and subsequently lied, why should anyone believe a word they now say? It was a perfectly reasonable question. So, right back at you Lance.

Armstrong will go down in history as the biggest sporting fraud the world has ever seen, and has kept his lies going for longer than anyone else, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

While Landis, Hamilton and many others were defamed, rubbished, insulted and bullied for telling the truth, Armstrong has continued to lie to his family, his fans, his friends, his sponsors, the cancer community…… the list goes on. He has even lied while under oath (which may prove to be his biggest problem should he confess, either that, the Whistleblower case or the two pending lawsuits that he would no doubt lose should he admit to prolonged drug use throughout his career) but now wants everyone to accept a confession.

His former team mate Jonathan Vaughters, and David Walsh the author of Seven Deadly Sins, have both said on Twitter that they would respect

Armstrong if a confession came and was the truth, the whole truth and

nothing but the truth.

Not everyone will be so open minded. Not just because he cheated and lied for so long, many did that, but because of the way he attacked and attempted to destroy anyone who spoke out against him.

No matter what, his lifetime ban must remain. To lie and cheat for years to such a degree (don’t forget, at one point American congressmen were getting involved on his behalf, trying to stop USADA from doing their job – how’s that for taking it too far?) only to be able to compete again in an Olympic sport just because you admitted your wrongdoings would undermine the anti-doping effort.

Armstrong had his chance to come clean when USADA approached him, and he turned it down. The case is done and dusted, the result decided, the sanction imposed and the record books altered. That should be the end of it, no come backs, no second chances.

After all, cycling is a far better sport without Lance Armstrong around.

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Related links
UCI accepts USADA ruling and strips Armstrong of Tour titles
USADA’s Armstrong doping report in brief
USADA publishes details of Armstrong doping case file
UCI responds to USADA Armstrong doping evidence
Former Armstrong team-mate Barry: ‘Doping had become an epidemic problem
Hincapie admits to doping during career
USADA strips Lance Armstrong of seven Tour titles
Lance Armstrong to be stripped of his seven Tour titles
Judge dismisses Armstrong lawsuit against USADA

LeMond suggests changes need to be made to drug testing and UCI
Vaughters denies that Garmin team riders will be suspended by USADA
Armstrong attacks USADA for opening formal action against him
Armstrong banned from triathlons as new doping charge brought against him
February 4 2012: Armstrong holds off the law
Armstrong case dropped by US investigators
Armstrong investigation arrives in Europe
Armstrong’s team mate Popovych testifies he did not witness doping
Armstrong’s team-mate Popovych summonsed in doping investigation
Landis admits he doped and implicates others


  • stepho

    A powerful and thoughtful article, Simon. I await with interest, rather than expectation, the upcoming ‘confession’.
    As for bans for substance abuse, I think that the rider should be able to continue competing while any appeal is waiting to be heard. The time span until the appeal after a positive test should be strictly limited to, e.g. two months. The ban should then start if the appeal is unsuccessful, regardless of whether the rider subsequently goes to CAS. Would that work?

  • adam

    I agree with Matt. Lifetime bans for politicians!

  • roginoz

    Yes Matt, cycling is perceived by many to be tarnished by drug episodes but equally there have been new worthy ambassadors in the eyes of the public…Wiggo, Cavo, Vicko,Cadelo ,Voecklo etcetera . Tim we ARE doing the most to clean our cupboard . Most BIG business spectator sports are rife with cover ups and corruption . They cloud issues better and invent excuses, in UK, OZ and probably all over. Let s not give up on our great and worthy sport and pastime.

  • matt

    Whether Armstrong admits to doping or not it changes nothing at all. Sadly the sport we all love is rotten to the core, certainly in the subject of doping. I am not for one minute supporting Armstrong but to me he did what almost every other contender of his generation, and generations did before, he doped. The only difference being he was far more efficient, far more ruthless in his pursuit of critics and probably far more intelligent than his fellpow dopers. Very much like British politics, until there is a mass clearout and offenders are treated severely(lifetime bans from year zero eg 2013) then not much will ever change and the name of cycling will be forever tarnished by the word “drugs”.

  • Tim Beasley

    I can agree that in the end we will get very fed up with more Lance stories. But I do think a confession from him still has some value for cycling particularly if it is actually a full confession which dishes the dirt on others who were involved.
    We need to see an end to the omerta. We need to know what the truth is about the role of the UCI and Verbruggen, in turning a blind eye to what was happening under their noses ( I put it charitably) otherwise, every time a drug cheat is caught we will be told that cycling does the most to root out cheats etc etc, cleanest sport etc etc – The same lines that have been trotted out with each scandal of the last 15 years.

  • Ken Evans

    “After all, cycling is a far better sport without Lance Armstrong around.”—-When armstrong was racing he bought a lot of publicity to cycling, especially in America, he has also raised a lot of money for cancer charities, and giving hope to some people with cancer. But he helped to spoil pro racing, and forced some clean riders out of the sport. If he were to publically confess to doping, I think it would be only because of the US government, or to make money, such as by selling a book, or a movie.

  • Paul

    what a load of absolute rubbish, and i am astonished that you could call yourself a journalist ??. Armstrong is/was the finest tour rider ever. I know it, the people on his team knew it and the rivals knew it. Coming from a magazine that doesn’t mind accomodating dopers when it sells issues ( pantani/simpson/merckx etc) its a bit too much.

  • megat aiman

    Written w full of raging vengeance on Lance. Bet the writer is one of those thatd approve the selective witch hunt. Classy. Not.

  • Sam

    Personally I have no interest in a ‘confession’ from Armstrong – just meaningless half-truths, written by his lawyers (having said that, I’m sure that the USADA bunch of confessors all had lawyers writing most of theirs for them).

    But I’m curious on one point, Simon: how do you know that De Jongh hasnt spoken to the Dutch AD agency for example?

  • megat aiman

    Written with raging vengeance on Lance. Classy. Not.

  • Paul

    Excellent. The man’s not going to confess. There is however a journalist with a book to sell.

  • dai bananas brother

    “cycling is a better sport without Lance Armstrong”….so why waste your time writing about him and. more to the point why did we waste our time reading it, even in a cursory manner?
    Dai’s missus didn’t read it as she is till reeling from the shock of a New Year Greetings card from Belgium. ‘Its Coming!’ read the outside , printed over a cobbled hill……opening it up the terrifying message ‘THE ENECO TOUR!!!!’ jumped right out. She ran screaming from the room

  • ian franklin

    This is a very nice piece by Simon. I think, given Armstrong’s mental condition, that it would be very difficult for him to confess – if he did so it would be with ‘riders’ that still made him out to be a victim! The problem Lance has is that it appears that he may be a sociopath. I’ve lived with a sociopath and can see that the bullying, cheating, blatant lying in face of strong evidence and so is a trait that these people share. They don’t see it themselves – that’s part of the condition. But my goodness – it makes other people’s lives hell. Armstrong has damaged this sport – I’ve been saying that for years and years and I want no apology from him (or Graham Watson and other misguided supporters). A confession would be worthless – we all know the truth.

  • Robert

    On the other hand, McQuaid, Verbruggen and the UCI seem determined to continue to deny their role in the greatest fraud in the history of sport, despite all the evidence showing that they protected Armstrong for years. Whilst they remain in power it is hard to have much faith in what is going in the sport today and there is little hope for the future, and the only thing that I can see happening that would topple them from power is Armstrong giving a full account of what happened in those years, including the role of the UCI. If this happened Armstrong could, ironically, end up being the man who actually saved cycling from its dirty past.

  • Herbie

    How true is that:- There are four subjects that are guaranteed to cause a storm in the cycling community: Mandatory helmet use, riders not waving back once they’ve been waved at, the cost of Rapha clothing, and Lance Armstrong.