Death threats haven't diminished USADA's resolve in Armstrong case

L'Equipe pages - Tygart interview

US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart dealt with death threats and criticism from all quarters to take down cycling great and cheat Lance Armstrong last month. On Monday, France's L'Equipe newspaper published an interview with Tygart that lifted the veil on the doping case.

The Armstrong case "resulted in three death threats" he said. His agency is used to dealing with threats, ever since the BALCO case that took down Marion Jones and other US sport stars, its Colorado HQ has been heavily fortified.

"Me and my family received one [death threat] when the Landis confessions came out," he added. "We reacted quickly. My office is now inaccessible to visitors. The blinds are down and the cameras are on 24/7."

The FBI dealt with the earlier threats as it is with the latest round of threats.

Tygart dealt with one of America's biggest sporting stars and cycling's former number one, a seven-time Tour de France winner. In February, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) case, he re-started his work and by June 12, he had enough information to charge Armstrong, his former trainer and friend, Johan Bruyneel and four others. The agency said Armstrong possessed, trafficked and administered banned drugs and methods. It added that he doped through most of his career, including his comeback in 2009 to 2011.

Armstrong essentially admitted defeat last month by deciding not to defend himself in arbitration. The agency responded immediately on August 24 by stripping him of all his victories from August 1, 1998, including the seven Tours.

Tygart explained in the interview that taking down Armstrong is part of his job. He said that Armstrong, despite being known as a cancer-survivor and founder of Livestrong, is "just like any other citizen."

"He is and will remain a hero to many. I love sports. Shattering dreams and legends doesn't excite me," Tygart continued. "But the mandate of the Agency is clear: we are there to defend clean athletes and that's what we do."

Armstrong avoided a large-scale public lashing by foregoing arbitration. Tygart said, however, that he could have saved his Tour titles earlier on. They spoke on the telephone twice.

"I offered him a solution, to co-operate ... But the next day he attacked us in court to challenge the constitutionality of our investigation!"

Armstrong may yet be heard in public, where much of the agency's evidence could be exposed. Bruyneel elected to face an arbitration panel, which could see Armstrong called to testify as a witness.

"I don't know what [Bruyneel] hopes for, he has everything to lose," Tygart added. "The hearing will be public. Lance Armstrong also may be called to testify, under oath. Like all the others. In this game there is no safety net. If he lies under oath, it's serious."

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said on Saturday that it will likely uphold the Armstrong decision. "The UCI is ready to take its responsibly, unless the decision gives us serious reason to do otherwise," president, Pat McQuaid said. "We have no intention to [appeal]."

The UCI will be able to act soon. Tygart said in the interview that the international federation will have the legal files by the end of the month, in other words, by this Sunday.

Related links

USADA strips Armstrong of seven Tour titles

Lance Armstrong to be stripped of his seven Tour titles

Judge dismisses Armstrong lawsuit against USADA

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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.