The article starts by saying: "If the Armstrong case file will become public at the end of this year, which he (Tygart) seems to hope, the impact (déflagration) promises to be terrible. Thirty times more intense, at least, than everything that came out untill now in investigations and books." Here are some of the questions and answers from the interview.
Is USADA paranoid? It looks like FortKnox here.
We have been doing this since two years. Before, our doors were open but since the BALCO case everything changed. We received death threats for the first time. Two for Terry Madden, my predecessor and a bit later one for me and my family when the Landis confessions came out. The FBI dealth with them. We reacted quickly. My office is now inaccessible to visitors. The blinds are down and the cameras are on 24/7.
And the Armstrong case?
That resulted in three death threats, all made by individuals I think. Once again, the FBI is involved.
Did you consider the discomfort of those who are ill, even if he has spoilt his humanist message?
Yes but the facts are the facts. Marion Jones and Tyler Hamilton also had foundations which closed down after the revealing of their betrayal. I understand the problem with doping. Athletes are sometimes victims that encourages foul play. But I don’t want to go into this discussion. I am interested in the facts and have to respect the mandate I have. Powerful or not, all athletes face the same justice. I have to keep emphasizing that USADA is independent. We want a clean sport and have nothing to do with the business caused by this or that discipline. We are here to intervene if necessary. We do this because the federations can’t do it. It’s contradictory to promote the sport and be in a position to sanction the athletes at the same time.
Michael Rubio, senator of California and 22 of his colleagues publicly denounced the way USADA works. How do you see these actions?
No worries. Some appear radically left-wing, others extremely right-wing. But ethics are neither republican nor democratic. John McCain has publicly supported me in the Armstrong case, George W Bush, former president, has ratified my mandate at UNESCO acknowledging the WADA code. I have testified before Joe Biden on several occasions.
Armstrong accused you of a personal vendetta.
No worries. I accept being accused, mistreated. That’s me, the public face of USADA. I am a target. But I won’t walk away. The most important thing is to protect my team. And to maintain the respect of the athletes who don’t cheat. But don’t get me wrong, I am not doing this on my own. This case was put together by me and my colleagues, as we always do. All decisions are taken together.
Who are your colleagues?
The best! We have 40 in Colorado Springs. The lawyers come from the biggest universities, the scientists and doctors are the best. Terry Madden gave me advice when he left: “You have to be the least competent, least intelligent and least brilliant of your staff.” And: “You don’t have to be dependent on this job because you can lose it instantly when you have to take difficult but crucial decisions.” And that especially counts today. I could be sacked any time. When Congress decides to cut our budget the message will be horrible for honest athletes but when it comes to me personally, I am free. Only the team counts! L’Equipe is what I call my team, like your paper. They are all former sports people, all sports-loving. We are united like the fingers on a hand. The senators may get excited but the Armstrong case has been dealt with by the team. And it’s too late for him.
You don’t seem to worry about the political pressure. The federal investigation which took two years suddenly stopped in February of this year. Probably ordered to stop as the presidential campaigns started. Bizarre, no?
I was suprised, like many. I don’t know. The investigators gathered 50% of the proof of doping at US Postal but doping is not a criminal offence in the USA. The use of public money is, on the contrary, a real fraud. I don’t know what happened. It’s a mystery.
Have you received any of their case material?
No, we received nothing. Theoretically we should have received at least the grand jury testimonies but we got nothing.
Do you know who testified? Have you heard them again?
That’s correct. And they told us what they told the FDA investigators. We have verified all the proof. It’s there that any declarations by Armstrong that this is stubbornness against him personally, doesn’t make any sense. This case is bigger than Armstrong alone. We are talking about a real conspiracy within US Postal. Perfectly organized with a number of compromized actors. Many have confessed but that doesn’t mean they won’t be suspended. Moderately.
So you retrieved the technical documents regarding six positive EPO samples from 1999 from the French authorities?
Absolutely. It’s huge proof. A confirmation of his guilt. But it’s the proof and the testimonies together that form the proof of his foul play.
Take us through an aspect of the case the general public has difficulties to understand. You sanctioned Armstrong from 1998. What happened to the eight year statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is a right granted to the defense. But this right doesn’t exist if the other party can prove that the athlete who committed foul play influenced the witnesses that appeared to be able to prove his guilt over the years. Or if he hid the proof or lied under oath. We are certain this is the case in the Armstrong file and will explain this to UCI when we hand over the file.
It’s imminent. At the end of the month.
So you can just go back in time as you wish?
Abolutely. Jurisprudence by CAS states that the law of the country where the case started is at play. So the principle that we won’t comply for the reasons I explained is stated in black and white in the American law. USADA has already convicted sports people for facts that dated back ten years. So yes, this is legitimate. For clean athletes a calendar is not important. Cheaters need to be caught. Period.
Let’s go back to 2005. Several articles and investigations by European journalists would have allowed you to start a procedure back then. Why wait?
We have been cautious, very cautious. The facts were not consistent. It was in 2010 when Landis and Hamilton started to collaborate that we decided to start the procedure. By then we understood it. We knew. But the feds took the file. We had to let them go first before we could take it back in February 2012.
The UCI has some reserves about your ability to supend non-licensed persons for life, like you did with Dr. Ferrari, Luis del Moral and Pepe Marti.
The principle is in their own regulations. It is incumbent upon the authority that evidenced the facts to punish the culprits whatever their nationality. We have been the first to collect the testimony of Floyd Landis, that condemned both LA and the USPS management. We did our job. Today, Ferrari continues to work underground but that wasn’t the case back then when he officially worked together with Armstrong and his team.
This suspension for life is like a godsend for his business. You acknowledge his ability and portray him to all athletes who might be tempted to dope as an excellent specialist?
We are not naive. It is true that we give him publicity by banning him for life. But his potential clients must never forget the following: in the WADA code is an article stating that is forbidden for any athlete to have relations with a suspended individual. It’s up to them to pay attention. From this decision we offer athletes the power to say no.
Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s mentor refused your judgment and opts for a hearing in front of an independent USADA panel. He plays it big?
Oh for sure. I don’t know what he hopes for. Winning time? Take advantage of the inertia of the system? He will be heard before the end of this year. The hearing will be public. Lance Armstrong may be called upon to tesify, under oath. Like all the others. In that game there is no safety net. If he lies under oath, it’s serious.
Last detail. Have you and Armstrong ever met? At least one time? Face to face?
No. We talked on the phone twice. It was all very formal. I offered him to find a solution, to cooperate. If he would have accepted the offer, he wouldn’t have lost his seven Tour de France titles because we would have taken his cooperation into consideration. But the next day he attacked us and the constitutionality of our investigation.
He has lost?