London: British newspaper The Sunday Times, vindicated at last over its 13-year pursuit of Lance Armstrong, said the self-confessed drugs cheat should face legal action and be banned from competitive sport for life.
The weekly broadsheet’s journalist David Walsh, who suspected the US cyclist throughout his seven Tour de France wins, urged Armstrong to go further in telling the truth about doping in the sport after he finally admitted cheating in an interview with chat show queen Oprah Winfrey.
The Sunday Times said it was also looking to get its money back after a ruling led them to paying him an out-of-court settlement over its allegations, which Armstrong now admits were true.
“Lance Armstrong is probably the most egregious drugs cheat in the history of sport,” the newspaper said in its editorial. “Now he is the hero who has sunk to somewhere below zero, exposed by his own admission of cheating.
“This newspaper’s David Walsh, with his dogged journalism, has been on Armstrong’s case for years. Now, as a result of his admission of cheating in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, it is finally out in the open.”
Armstrong said in his interview that he would apologise to Walsh.
“So he should,” the newspaper said. “But an apology can never be enough. Armstrong lied and cheated his way to success. He has made us all feel more cynical about sport and about how sporting success is achieved.
“In 2006, after a court ruling that required us to prove his doping rather than being able to ask legitimate questions about whether he was doing it, this newspaper had to pay Armstrong £300,000 (Dh1.7 million) in an out-of-court settlement, plus costs that took our legal bill to £1 million.
“We are now pressing for that money to be paid back.
“It is not just about the money. He destroyed the reputation of his sport and he tried to destroy the reputation of a journalist who never gave up.
“He deserves to be pursued through the courts and banned from competitive sport for life.”
Walsh, for years a lonely voice as he wrote books including ‘LA Confidentiel’, wrote in the newspaper: “From his very first Tour victory in 1999, I knew. He was a cheat. Other journalists were similarly sceptical but The Sunday Times offered an opportunity few others had. I was allowed repeatedly to write stories that said/suggested/argued that Armstrong was a fraud. It helped, too, that he soon grew to hate me and saw me as his bete noire. It became my calling card. He saw me as the enemy, mayor of Troll City.
“We learnt a lot about each other.”
Walsh said he was called by Winfrey’s producers, who “wanted to know about Armstrong’s darker side”.
He said Armstrong had twice spoken about his son John Walsh, who died aged 12, saying it was “sick that I should describe John as a favourite son”, and claiming Walsh had a vendetta against cycling and Armstrong because John was killed while riding his bike.
“I want people to know how nasty this guy can be,” he wrote.
He said he would “probably” like to interview Armstrong again.
Armstrong told Winfrey he found more happiness in preparing for competition than in winning.
“That makes sense for me too: the hunt was better than the kill,” Walsh wrote. “I do not expect or want an apology but I would like a third meeting because I have got a lot of questions. Oprah started something three nights ago, a very modest step on the road to truth in Armstrong’s story.
“If he commits himself to the journey, he will be surprised how far he can go.”