Travis Tygart, the anti-doping chief who took the lead role in relentlessly pursuing Lance Armstrong and uncovering the most explosive scandal in the history of cycling says he has received “death threats and hate mail” but does not have a shred of regret.
Tygart , chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), said he hoped the Armstrong affair had sent out a powerful enough message that the cheats will ultimately never prosper and that the case will change the face of cycling forever.
In one of his first interviews since Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories were sensationally annulled in the wake of the USADA report that exposed the United States Postal Service (USPS) cycling team as running “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”, Tygart did not mince his words when it came to Armstrong’s shattered reputation.
“I’ve had deaths threats and hate mail,” Tygart revealed to insidethegames. “I can’t say who because it is under investigation. But, we had a clear and simple mission: to defend clean athletes. We take no satisfaction other than clean athletes winning as a result of doing one’s job. People were deceived by an incredible story which turned out to be a great fraud.”
Armstrong, who won his seven Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005 after recovering from testicular cancer, has repeatedly denied that he cheated to become the biggest name in cycling history. However, even his most ardent supporters have had to concede defeat.
“The legacy of this affair is that no individual athlete, however big a name and however loved they are, is above the rules,” said Tygart. “It’s not about me or USADA. It’s about the mission. No-one is too big to be held accountable. Sometimes the decisions we make are really tough. It was as clear as daylight that we had an obligation to follow through on the evidence we had. The entire scheme was to defeat the traditional testing program. They were good at it and had the money and resources to ensure they were never caught.”
Tygart hoped the lifetime ban imposed on the 41-year-old American would allow clean cyclists to flourish and force potential dopers in a sport riven for years by performance-enhancing ploys to think twice.
“Clean athletes should know they now have a place to go knowing the anti-doping authorities will no longer turn a blind eye,” he said. “Those who are genuinely interested in the integrity of sport – and that includes sponsors, athletes, team directors – have to embrace a clean culture.”
Tygart said the majority of professional cyclists had backed the verdict against Armstrong and several other prominent members of the USPS team who were also sanctioned.
“We have been thanked by several athletes who rode clean and refused to live a lie,” said Tygart. “Their decisions have now been validated.”
Tygart says processes are certain to be put in place to recoup Armstrong’s career winnings.
“You can’t rob a bank, be declared the robber and keep all the money,” he explained. “It doesn’t work that way.”
He also hinted strongly that Pat McQuaid, the increasingly under-fire President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), should resign for mismanaging the Armstrong saga.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Tygart insisted. “We need to have definitive action from the top of every sport, in this case the UCI, to make sure this never happens again – not justifications of why it is someone else’s fault. A lot of people, certainly the leadership of UCI, have made excuses for why this happened. That’s not leadership in terms of taking the sport to the next level.”
The best way forward to heal cycling’s gaping wounds, suggests Tygart, is for those still using performance enhancing drugs to be allowed to come clean as part of “a well thought out and well executed truth and reconciliation plan”.
“What is critically important is that all those who have been participating…have to be given an opportunity to come forward,” he said. “Otherwise if they doped and got away with it, they will be more likely to continue the practice.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee for the upcoming London Summer Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission. The original story can be found by going to http://www.insidethegames.biz/sports/summer/cycling/1012172-i-received-death-threats-following-armstrong-report-admits-usada-chief-tygart.