Cycling: Lance Armstrong wants confession amnesty


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The Independent Online

Lance Armstrong's desire to conjure a reduction in his life ban was laid bare when the disgraced American rider proposed that anybody testifying to a truth and reconciliation commission should be covered by a "complete amnesty" and bans should be handed out on an equal basis.

For the first time Armstrong also attacked the UCI, cycling's governing body, and its embattled president, Pat McQuaid, labelling the Irishman "pathetic" and accusing him of being in "constant CYA [Cover Your Ass] mode". The UCI and its leader are facing mounting criticism for an increasingly shambolic handling of the fallout from the Armstrong affair and a bitter war of words with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Armstrong said he had advanced the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to McQuaid in the past but McQuaid wanted "nothing to do with it". McQuaid's current position is to support such a commission.

It was during his interview with Oprah Winfrey two weeks ago that Armstrong first stated his willingness to testify before any truth and reconciliation commission. His belated willingness to offer a confession of sorts has been seen by many in the United States as an attempt to have his ban cut to allow him to compete in triathlon and Iron Man events. That was given further weight by Wednesday's interview in Cycling News, conducted as a Q&A.

"Let's be honest, folks in my situation have their own selfish reasons," he replied in answer to what sort of reconciliation he would expect. "It's why we are here. What is relevant is that everyone is treated equally and fairly. We all made the mess, let's all fix the mess, and let's all be punished equally."

Of his life ban imposed in the wake of the publication of the US anti-doping agency's comprehensive and damning investigation, Armstrong claimed he had been "publicly lynched". A number of the riders who confessed to the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) and provided evidence against Armstrong received minimal bans.

"Letting some race the season then giving minor off-season sanctions versus the death penalty [for similar offences] isn't fair and isn't about 'cleaning up cycling'," said Armstrong. "It's about getting your man." The Texan has taken to referring to his life ban as "the death penalty".

Armstrong has a deadline of next Wednesday to volunteer a full confession under oath to Usada. Barring a truth and reconciliation commission, which remains some distance away, that is the only means for him to earn any sort of reduction to his ban.

Armstrong insisted truth and reconciliation remains the sole option. "It's not the best way, it's the only way," he said. "As much as I'm the eye of the storm this is not about one man, one team, one director. This is about cycling and to be frank it's about all endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem.

"My generation was no different than any other. The 'help' has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard, the Tour was invented as a 'stunt', and very tough mother f**kers have competed for a century and all looked for advantages. From hopping on trains 100 years ago to EPO now. No generation was exempt or 'clean'. Not Merckx's, not Hinault's, not LeMond's, not Coppi's, not Gimondi's, not Indurain's, not Anquetil's, not Bartali's, and not mine."

Meanwhile, Frank Schleck will miss the Tour de France after he was given a one-year backdated ban for failing a dope test during last year's race. The Luxembourg rider, who finished third in 2011, tested positive for a diuretic.