Armstrong not a 'scapegoat' for USADA

 Armstrong not a 'scapegoat' for USADA
Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his yellow jerseys and given a life ban from the sport for doping.

 Gone are those dark days when cycling was overshadowed by rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs as athletes willing to win at any cost jabbed themselves in a bid to scale the podiums and don yellow jerseys.

But the sport is at its cleanest in decades and much of this success has been due to the efforts of the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) and its head Travis Tygart, the man responsible for bringing down its biggest star and drug cheat Lance Armstrong.

The disgraced American dominated the sport for almost a decade, winning seven Tour de France titles on the back of one of the most sophisticated doping programmes within his US Postal Service team.

Their actions were eventually exposed and led to Armstrong's televised confession in January 2013.

He was stripped of all his yellow jerseys and given a life ban from the sport.

Said Tygart: "What we saw in cycling was a culture where you had no choice but to cheat or you lost, and now that culture has shifted and the bias is in favour of the clean athlete.

"No longer are we going to tolerate when the overwhelming majority of the pro peloton easily justify the use of performance-enhancing drugs to create a corrupt culture where you have to use these drugs to win."

Even Armstrong, in a recent interview, has conceded that doping to gain an advantage would not be necessary in this era, though his lack of remorse did not surprise his fellow American.

Noted Tygart, who is in Singapore for a two-day anti-doping intelligence seminar: "I hope it gets to the point where he can come in and truly be sorry (and) help us clean up the sport once and for all...

"Use the lessons of his experience to help other athletes not make the same mistakes and poor choices he made."

He also rejected former International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid's claims that Armstrong was a prominent scapegoat for Usada as "soundbites".

He explained: "The evidence is totally different. There have been roughly 26 athletes, coaches, team doctors who have been held accountable.

"Several of them have gotten lifetime bans as well."

Both Armstrong and McQuaid "had every opportunity to challenge that sanction" but never took up that option.

Tygart, a 43-year-old lawyer, has been involved in nearly every major doping investigation of the past decade.

In 2002, he played a key role in the Balco scandal that led to the high-profile ban of Olympic sprint champions Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery as well as baseball stars Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.

The current probe by the World Anti-Doping Association (Wada) into allegations of widespread doping in the Russian Olympic set-up was welcomed by Tygart, who in 2013 was named in Sports Illustrated's top-50 list of most powerful people in sports.

"It's a defining moment for Wada because if one country who hosted the (2014 Winter) Games can get away with dominating the Games and winning medals with drug use, that's an intolerable situation and clean athletes around the world won't stand for it."

Meanwhile, the door remains open for Armstrong to return to the sport and for his lifetime suspension to be lifted.

"Technically, it's allowed for but it's an objective analysis based on the value of information he provides which must lead to the establishment or discovery of doping violations of others," said Tygart.

While his dogged pursuit of the Texan - which saw him face at least three cases of death threats - has catapulted Tygart into the spotlight, he played down the impact.

He said: "Ultimately, Lance was held accountable for his decisions.

"It was not us that brought him down.

"It was his decisions to defraud the world.

"We simply did our job."

U-TURN TO HONESTY

What we saw in cycling was a culture where you had no choice but to cheat or you lost, and now that culture has shifted and the bias is in favour of the clean athlete.

Travis Tygart, head of US Anti-Doping Agency

ROAD TO INFAMY

Ultimately, Lance was held accountable for his decisions. It was not us that brought him down.

It was his decisions to defraud the world. We simply did our job.

Tygart on the disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong.

 


This article was first published on Feb 12, 2015.
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