AUSTIN, Texas — Had Lance Armstrong cooperated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation last summer, he would’ve been allowed to keep five of his seven stripped Tour de France titles.
Bill Bock, the general counsel for USADA, made that announcement Monday night during the McGarr Symposium, which was sponsored by the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas. Bock was one of five panelists who spoke to about 200 people about whether cycling could ever clean up from the drug scandals that have rocked the sport for decades.
Last summer, Armstrong declined the chance to speak to USADA, so the agency banned him for life and stripped him of all his results dating back to 1998, including his seven Tour wins.
“If he had been open and honest,” Bock said, “yeah, he would’ve kept five of (the Tour titles). One of our ideas was to give amnesty for riders, to give them incentive to get the full picture so they don’t have all those skeletons in the closet.” Armstrong, who was reached by the American-Statesman on Tuesday, declined to comment. He did not attend Monday’s symposium, although he was invited to participate.
Eleven other riders ended up providing information to USADA. The ones who still were competing received only six-month suspensions, which started in the offseason, meaning they missed little, if any, competition.
If Armstrong had spoken with USADA last year, the agency would’ve been bound by its eight-year statute of limitations, and only his Tours won in 2004-05 would have been wiped away. But USADA waived the statute, saying Armstrong’s doping charges were too serious.
There still is a chance that Armstrong could work with USADA to help clean up the sport. He confessed to his drug use in January during a long interview with media mogul Oprah Winfrey. But he declined to name others involved or provide details on how he and his teammates got access to performance enhancers like EPO, testosterone and human growth hormones.
Betsy Andreu, the wife of one of Armstrong’s former teammates and friends, said Monday she wanted to encourage Armstrong to work with USADA.
“If he does, I’ll be (Armstrong’s) biggest supporter,” said Andreu, who testified against Armstrong in the USADA investigation.
Frankie Andreu, her husband, was one of the 11 riders who confessed to his own drug use while providing information on Armstrong. He faced no sanctions because he had been retired from competing for a decade.
There is a chance that Betsy Andreu, who took part in the panel discussion, also could be a witness for the federal government, which two months ago joined a whistleblower case filed by Floyd Landis.
Andreu suggested that cyclists who dope should face criminal charges. The federal government ended its criminal investigation against Armstrong in early 2012, which led the way for USADA’s report.
Three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond and his wife, Kathy, also were panelists. LeMond was a generation ahead of Armstrong in the cycling world, so the two never raced against each other. They were acquaintances before Armstrong began his Tour winning streak — LeMond made appearances on behalf of Armstrong’s foundation — but they evolved into enemies.
LeMond has been an outspoken critic against Armstrong dating back to 2001. But in front of an Austin audience, he said he held “no vendetta” against Armstrong.
“I want to see cycling get to where I can say I can see a real winner,” LeMond said.
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