DAVID WALSH, THE Irish journalist who has been consistently accusing Lance Armstrong of doping through the years, has given his reaction to last night’s interview with Oprah, saying Armstrong confessed “not because he wanted to but because he had to”.
Walsh claimed Armstrong only told “bits of the truth” in the interview last night and revealed he didn’t get particular satisfaction from seeing the disgraced cyclist finally make his confession.
“In a way, I haven’t been waiting acutely really,” he told RTE Radio One. “My feeling from a long way back was that the guy was doping and that he was lying and I knew him to be a bully and using intimidatory tactics – all that stuff. I mean, I’m glad it’s come out for sure.
“People will say: ‘Oh, Walsh got it right there,’ but I didn’t feel that I was ever wrong. If Lance Armstrong hadn’t been caught and I met you in 30 years time, I’d still say I was proud of the Lance Armstrong coverage.”
On Armstrong’s interviewer, he said: “I think Oprah did reasonably well,” but suggested she lacked “a deeper understanding of the story”.
“Lance said: ‘Michele Ferrari is an honest man, he’d never dope me,’ and he says now he’d say something ‘very different’.
“And it was crying out for Oprah to say, ‘well Lance, tell us what you’d say now’ – but she didn’t go there and as a result, Ferrari almost got off the hook.”
The Sunday Times journalist said Armstrong’s suggestion that the tour was impossible to win clean was “ridiculous,” adding:
“I believe guys were talented for the tour – they didn’t need four chances to discover they were great riders.
“If he cycled in an era when doping didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have come within a million miles [of winning].”
“He rode 13 mountain stages and didn’t come within a million miles of the leaders.
“Physiologically, he wasn’t suited to cycling.
“The blood boosting drugs create a different man – that’s where Lance Armstrong benefited in terms of tours he won.”
“Plenty of guys have ridden this race clean – all you do is ride it slower.”
In response to Armstrong’s claims that he wasn’t the ringleader of the doping in cycling and that it was endemic in the sport anyway at the time he started, Walsh said:
“He said he didn’t invent the culture. But the French team had signed up to a protocol of testing – I believe most of them were clean in 1999. Lance Armstrong knew the sport was at a crossroads at the time – he led it back down the doping route.
“All you had to do to earn his disfavour was be anti-doping.”
In addition, the part of the interview in which Armstrong refused to confirm whether Betsy Andreu was telling the truth with her accusations was “disgusting,” according to Walsh:
“For the last 11 years, Betsy had been telling people: ‘I’m not a liar.’
“He said I’m not going to answer that question [about her accusations] – don’t ring her to apologise and then refuse to publicly exonerate her.”
Meanwhile, Walsh recalled how, more than other journalists, Armstrong seemed especially annoyed at him.
“If you go back through things he said, he despised me. I got seriously under his skin.
“I was the worst journalist he ever saw, I was a little f***ing troll. It was because I wouldn’t go away.”
He also criticised both the UCI and the sponsors for their behaviour:
“The UCI did a cover-up on those six positive tests and they’re soliciting 100,000 from a guy that is being investigated.
“The sponsors didn’t want to know. When Lance made that appalling ad with Nike, that ad was a two fingers to all the people who were asking questions.”
Walsh added that he believed part two of the interview, which will be broadcast at 2am Saturday (Irish time), will be a “softer” version of part one.