Does the world need a Lance Armstrong confession?

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Lance Armstrong's legacy may be to rip world cycling apart as he continues to ignore doping allegations made by former US Postal teammates and staff (Image: AFP)

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Former Lance Armstrong teammate and self-confessed doper Tyler Hamilton recently spoke of the sense of relief he felt when he finally began to tell the truth about his abuse of banned substances throughout his career.

It was a long, drawn-out process which began with his parents and culminated in a very public confession in May 2011 on America’s 60 Minutes television program.

Hamilton has since been vocal in his appeal for Armstrong to follow his own path and confess to using banned substances.

“I do believe we will see some sort of truth come out from Lance Armstrong eventually,” Hamilton said in a recent interview.

“I know it will do him a lot of good personally and it will do the sport of cycling a lot of good. We’re in a tough spot right now and with Armstrong coming clean we could put an end to this chapter and we could move forward.

“The peloton today are suffering for our past and that’s not fair.”

He might have added, “And the fans too.”

Hamilton has been more or less in a minority of one in his belief that his former team leader would ever come clean – until this week that is, when a report emerged in the New York Times claiming that Armstrong was considering a full public confession and was seeking meetings with Travis Tygart of the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Intriguingly, when contacted by the Times for a comment, Armstrong’s long-term lawyer, Tim Herman, said only, “Lance has to speak for himself on that.”

He also denied his client was seeking talks with the USADA or WADA.

Armstrong has been facing increasing pressure to confess, chiefly from the board of the Livestrong Foundation, which fears the continuing devaluing of Armstrong’s reputation is negatively affecting the foundation’s revenue.

The article claims though that Armstrong’s motivation to confess is based on his desire to continue to compete in triathlon and other endurance events. The article states:

“Armstrong has hopes of competing in triathlons and running events, but those competitions are often sanctioned by organisations that adhere to the World Anti-Doping Code, under which Armstrong received his lifetime ban.”

Stacked up against a possible confession though are some very large numbers, which would run into the dozens of millions of dollars.

The Texan is facing an $11 million civil suit from SCA Promotions after the company was forced to pay out a Tour de France winner’s bonus to him, as well as a $1.5 million case brought by the Sunday Times newspaper.

A confession could bring out other disgruntled figures and even previous corporate sponsors, whose legal teams could present a very formidable challenge to Armstrong’s own.

The question that arises here, however, is this: Do we need a confession from Lance Armstrong?

I’m not so sure.

According to the article, Armstrong’s motivation for confessing is not to apologise for the damage he did to the reputation of cycling nor to the people whose careers his denials and counter-accusations so negatively affected.

The driving factor, as reported in the article, is his desire to be a competitive athlete once again – and, presumably, to be rewarded financially for that.

Once tipped as a potential politician, that avenue now seems blocked to him (though his ability to obfuscate the facts would serve him well in politics, some may argue). Perhaps a career as a masters triathlete seems to him to be the best of the rest at this current moment in time.

Some will argue that everyone deserves a second chance. I would normally agree. But unlike Hamilton, or Floyd Landis, or David Millar, who each doped, confessed and were allowed to move on, Armstrong’s professional life was tainted not only by cheating to win but by sustained and continuous attacks on those he deemed to be against him.

In the cases of Fillipo Simeoni and Cristophe Bassons, Armstrong played a direct hand in having them shunned by the peloton and in the early curtailing of their cycling careers.

In another, that of Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu, he called into question the mental state of Betsy after she accused him of using banned substances, and vilified Frankie, putting considerable strain on their marriage.

The list goes on, and is depressingly long. It’s this aspect of the whole affair, as well as the continuous denials and the use of the Livestrong Foundation as a shield from which to hide behind, which would make any confession from Armstrong seem worthless.

The Tour de France titles are gone. The records have been erased. The achievements, the battles, the slow-motion segments set to epic music are all fading to grey. The truth of the matter is there is no way back from the wilderness for the former grand champion.

Confession or not, the majority just don’t want him back.

Lee Rodgers is an independent pro rider riding for the Crank Punk Coaching Systems-Lapierre Cycling Project, and is a freelance journalist.
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