Lance Armstrong once again has decided not to cooperate with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency but said he still plans to "cooperate fully" with other anti-doping authorities instead.
For the second time in two weeks, the famed cyclist has rejected USADA's deadline to submit to a full debriefing about how he cheated on the bike and got away with it for years. If he had agreed to cooperate, his testimony could have paved the way for a reduction in his lifetime ban from sanctioned sporting events.
But Armstrong still has issues with USADA "for several reasons," according to a statement released Wednesday by Tim Herman, his attorney. And now he said he hopes to pursue a different route, possibly through an independent international tribunal yet to be established.
"Lance is willing to cooperate fully and has been very clear: He will be the first man through the door, and once inside will answer every question, at an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport," Herman's statement said. "We remain hopeful that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result. In the meantime, for several reasons, Lance will not participate in USADA's efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonize selected individuals while failing to address the 95% of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction."
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For USADA and other anti-doping authorities, the goal is full disclosure. They want Armstrong to give a confession under oath without holding back on certain subjects as he did in his televised confession last month with Oprah Winfrey. In that interview, Armstrong avoided or did not discuss various topics, including the role of his cycling team manager Johan Bruyneel.
Previously, USADA imposed a deadline of Feb. 6 but granted Armstrong a two-week extension at his request – until Wednesday, which he declined to meet.
"We have provided Mr. Armstrong several opportunities to assist in our ongoing efforts to clean up the sport of cycling," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement Wednesday. "Following his recent television interview, we again invited him to come in and provide honest information, and he was informed in writing by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that this was the appropriate avenue for him if he wanted to be part of the solution."
Tygart said Armstrong "led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA, but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so."
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The statement also said USADA learned from the media Wednesday that Armstrong "is choosing not to come in and be truthful and that he will not take the opportunity to work toward righting his wrongs in sport."
The statement concludes by saying USADA is "moving forward with our investigation without him and we will continue to work closely with WADA and other appropriate and responsible international authorities to fulfill our promise to clean athletes to protect their right to compete on a drug free playing field."
Herman told USA TODAY Sports last month that Armstrong's offer to cooperate was not contingent on having his ban reduced.
But personal mistrust and other issues got in the way of Armstrong cooperating with USADA and Tygart, Armstrong's nemesis.
USADA has said Armstrong was the ringleader of the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." In October, the agency released a massive evidence file against Armstrong that spelled it all out, including statements from 26 witnesses that described how Armstrong doped, avoided detection and lied about it for several years.
After being banned for life and stripped of his seven titles in the Tour de France, Armstrong finally confessed last month in his interview with Winfrey. He said he used banned drugs and blood transfusions from the mid-1990s through 2005. But he still disputed key points of USADA's case against him. He denied being a ringleader in the scheme and said he stopped doping after 2005 – statements that Tygart said were not true based on the evidence.
Not surprisingly, Armstrong preferred to cooperate with other authorities on this issue. If the goal is to clean up cycling, Herman argued that USADA was not the proper organization to handle the task because cycling is mostly a European sport.
USADA didn't have much leverage with Armstrong anyway. Though Armstrong wants to compete again in sanctioned triathlons and marathons, the best USADA might be able to offer him was a reduction in his lifetime ban to eight years, when Armstrong, 41, would be near 50.
If Armstrong were to provide substantial assistance to anti-doping officials, a lifetime ban could be reduced to no less than eight years, according to the WADA code.
"An eight-year ban, that would be a lifetime ban (for Armstrong)," Herman recently told USA TODAY Sports last month.
Instead of cooperating with USADA, Armstrong hopes to cooperate with an independent inquiry, such as one being proposed by WADA. However, it does not yet exist and has been the subject of dispute between WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI). WADA also said USADA is Armstrong's proper path to cooperation.
In the meantime, Armstrong faces a number of civil fraud suits stemming from his doping admission, including one that was recently filed by an insurance company in Dallas. It seeks repayment of $12 million in bonuses and fees that were paid to Armstrong for winning the Tour de France.