So Lance confessed. Only not officially. At least probably not yet. Do we need more? Only Lance’s most fevered core believed he was innocent, and that group is probably so small that they number fewer than those who sold everything before the end of the world on the Mayan calendar.
A few of those might bail on Lance. But the rest will probably blame the system and express certitude that Armstrong is the true victim. Oh, and those who had hope because of him. Sure, people will die because they lost hope in Lance. Right.
Back to reality: there is the matter of the civil penalty owing to using federal money for breaking the law. The whistle-blower suit Floyd Landis started should be back and Lance and his partners will owe a big chunk of change—probably eating up much of Lance’s fortune. There is the potential that SCA could sue for $12 million. The Sunday Times is already suing for $500,000. There is the matter of perjury, which could net Lance up to five years in jail, though the six months Marion Jones got could be more likely. These aren’t big things and Lance is surely happy to pay and serve. And all of this doesn’t matter to the sporting Lance, as he already let several deadlines pass to challenge his lifetime ban from competitive sports.
If he’s coming forward, he either believes something worse will occur if he doesn’t and he’s keen on avoiding jail, minimizing his civil liabilities, and returning to competitive sports. Thing is, to get out from these penalties, he has to have some pretty stellar information to share.
He’s a petty, vindictive person who lives for tormenting and destroying his enemies. He’s also pretty exceptional at writing off his friends when necessary. So score-settling is probably on his mind. And he could be ready to take everyone associated with him down as well. But he’ll also have to do far more than that to get out of the punishments that come along with the admission.
On the score-settling front, it’s hard to see him getting even with Floyd Landis, and Landis is the guy who has done Lance the most harm. Floyd is the root of Lance’s troubles and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to beat Floyd in this game. Lance probably won’t be able to land a blow on David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, or Greg LeMond, though he’s done plenty to them already. They, along with Emma O’Reilly, and many others might be able to sue Lance.
But there are plenty of ex-teammates who pointed fingers at Lance. And as former co-conspirators, he could have something on most of them. Most of his former teammates made declarations as to when they started and stopped doping, and if he can prove they lied, they could be facing lifetime bans themselves. Lance, who always needs enemies, can exact some revenge by taking them out of cycling.
There is no shortage of sponsors who abandoned Lance as a result of the lifetime ban. He could have dirt on them. Trek, Oakley, and Nike were the deepest in. An employee of Oakley’s heard Lance admit to doping. Somehow, pressure was exerted on her to change her story.
Armstrong could be facing a prisoner’s dilemma of sorts. Johan Bruyneel, Pedro Celaya, and Luis Garcia del Moral all have arbitration hearingscoming up. Maybe he wants to talk before they do, for fear they could do him more damage. They, unlike Lance, still need cycling for their livelihood, he doesn’t. Not yet at least. If Lance talks first, they get the lifetime bans; he gets a chance to “come back.”
Admitting to that possibly positive test in 2001 and outing the ousted Hein Verbruggen could be an easy one. Perhaps that will be the straw the breaks Pat McQuaid as well. Hard to imagine Lance owes either anything. For all we know, they were reluctant accomplices in Armstrong’s success and even tried to limit Lance in some way.
He could also start turning on his friends and former team directors. There are allegations that he was doping back when he was an amateur, so he could be revealing the extent that management tolerated doping at USA Cycling, the Subaru-Montgomery team, the Motorola team, the Cofidis team, US Postal, Discovery, Astana, and RadioShack. It’s hard to believe he’d finger his Austin-based Capital Sports and Entertainment team lead by Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs, both of whom seem to rate as BFFs, but if Lance sings, they and their company could be liable for civil penalties. He could finger Michele Ferrari, as Ferrari probably can’t get in any more trouble than he has already, and it’s hard to imagine Ferrari could do anything that would clear him of the doping charges against him.
Even if Lance somehow can offer USADA enough information to merit any sort of reduction, it’s hard to see the federal government being as generous. Fraud and perjury are serious crimes. The USADA, despite what Armstrong has said, has very few ties to the federal government; it’s hard to imagine that dishing on dopers alone will save Lance’s freedom and fortune.
So perhaps he’s got something the government can work with. Can he share something about improper influencing by elected officials on the federal attorney’s office that shut down the Armstrong inquiry? A number of congressman and senators publicly called into question the inquiry. Can he shed light on improper actions by the federal attorney in shutting down the inquiry? The case was officially closed late on a Friday afternoon two days before the Super Bowl.
There’s could be international intrigue as well. There have been allegations that Armstrong was tipped off before testers arrived. Some have darkly hinted that former French President Nicholas Sarkozy had something to do with it. While it seems unlikely, Lance cultivated friends in high places, and perhaps had a push/pull relationship with Sarko’.
No matter what Lance’s reasons, or the costs associated with admitting to doping throughout his career, it’s hard to imagine the benefits will accrue sufficiently for Lance to become associated with LiveStrong again. It’s hard to see an association that gives “hope” putting a guy who not only cheated his way to his position of prominence, but demonstrated ice-cold cynicism all the way through and including his doping admission, back as the poster boy of their organization. It’s hard to imagine the organization surviving for more than another year or two—the brand is too tied to Lance for people to feel good about giving money to it. And the same will probably go for Livestrong.com.
Any admission will be exciting. A shitstorm that makes the USADA Reasoned Decision on Lance look like a breezy day is sure to follow. Armstrong used to complain about others trying to tear down the sport. He now seems ready to do the same.