AUSTIN (AP) — Lance Armstrong talked last week with the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in hopes of potentially reducing his lifetime ban from the sports he loves, The Associated Press has learned.
Armstrong and Travis Tygart met for six hours, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussion was meant to remain private. The meeting was first reported by The New York Times.
The meeting was the first between Armstrong and Tygart since late 2012. The two have publicly sparred since the agency’s investigation into doping by Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team led to Armstrong’s ban and his being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
Tygart has said that despite Armstrong’s public confessions to performance-enhancing drugs use, he had to meet with USADA to have any chance of reducing his ban, which also covers sanctioned triathlons, marathons and other sports Armstrong enjoys.
Tygart did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment. Armstrong’s attorney, Elliot Peters, declined comment.
Armstrong previously met twice with European officials investigating doping in cycling. The meeting with Tygart came after the March 8 release of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission report that seemed to question Armstrong’s lifetime ban but stopped short of recommending it be reduced.
The CIRC report noted the “striking difference” between the lifetime ban on Armstrong and punishments of six months handed to other riders who were also caught cheating. But it also noted that Armstrong deserved a “harsh sanction” and that some reduced penalties could be justified for riders who cooperated with USADA’s initial investigation, which Armstrong did not.
What new information about doping in cycling Armstrong could still provide USADA and cycling officials is unclear. And his willingness to do so could be complicated by lawsuits he still faces and where he will have to testify under oath. Most notable is a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by former teammate Floyd Landis and joined by the federal government.
In that case, the government wants to recover about $40 million in sponsorship money paid to Armstrong and his team by the U.S. Postal Service and damages could run as high as $100 million.
The meeting with USADA also comes at a time when Armstrong has resurfaced in public charitable events to fight cancer. He recently signed up to participate and raise money in a charity bike ride for Livestrong, the cancer-fighting foundation he started in 1997 but was forced to leave in late 2012.
Armstrong also has agreed to participate in an unofficial charity event this summer in which he would ride part of the Tour de France route a day before the professional peloton. The head of world cycling on Tuesday called that plan “disrespectful” and urged him to abandon that event. Armstrong responded by insisting he was “honored and humbled” to be invited.
Armstrong also has gone back to referring to himself as seven-time Tour de France winner on his Twitter account.
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