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Los Angeles – The former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, has called on Lance Armstrong to co-operate fully with drug-testing authorities if he wants to have his lifetime ban from the sport lifted.
Armstrong has given his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France victories and banished from the sport. In it, the talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who talked to the Texan for two-and-a-half hours, said he admitted doping.
But on the eve of the much-anticipated broadcast and as speculation swirled about the extent of his confession, Pound said Armstrong should face a proper grilling from anti-doping and cycling authorities, naming names and details about how he cheated.
“Simply by confessing to what everybody knows is not going to do anything here,” Pound told AFP in an interview.
“USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency) can, if Lance provides significant or substantial assistance in the fight against doping in sport, make a recommendation to change the ban from life to something less than life, depending on the degree of information and assistance he gives.”
The USADA last year said Armstrong was at the centre of the most sophisticated doping programme in the history of sport, publishing reams of damning eye-witness testimony from former team-mates about the extent of his cheating.
The scandal plunged the sport into crisis, raising questions about how he was able to avoid detection for so long, amid claims that the International Cycling Union (UCI) governing body turned a blind eye to widespread doping in the peloton.
Pound, who is now a member of the International Olympic Committee, alleged that professional racers were tipped off about how to evade tests for the illegal blood booster erythropoetin (EPO).
A Swiss lab even met Armstrong and his former team manager Johan Bruyneel at the request of the UCI to explain the EPO testing process, after the rider had given a “suspicious” test in a race in 2001, USADA has said.
Pound said that by giving the interview now and admitting what he had always denied, Armstrong could be hoping to pave the way for a return to competition in marathons and triathlons and rehabilitate his tattered reputation.
But he said mitigating his ban would depend on whether he told all.
“Redemption is something the public will or will not give,” said Pound. “That is one of the areas he could provide substantial assistance. If he said, 'yes, indeed, the people who are directing UCI or the people in UCI are tipping us off.”
The choice of Winfrey for a public confessional has sown doubts about how much scrutiny Armstrong faced, although she said that “the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered”.
Winfrey previously interviewed US athlete Marion Jones, after she admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs and was jailed.
Pound's comments echo those of his successor as WADA director-general, David Howman, and the UCI, who both want Armstrong to give testimony to the relevant authorities.
“From what little I know about his (Armstrong) character, he will try for the minimum,” said the Canadian, a long-standing critic of the UCI and its drug-testing procedures.
“If I were writing the script for him I would say, 'I have done this and I was wrong. I was just so obsessed with winning that I let all this get in the way of my judgement.'
“He is the one who is making the confession, so in a sense he gets a chance to choose what it is. What he risks is that if he gets a softball outcome like Marion Jones got then people are going to be even more put off.” – Sapa-AFP