World Anti-Doping Agency

Lance Armstrong, and the time for accountability

There are two plays going on in the matter of Lance Armstrong. One is to the court of public opinion. That's why he's talking to Oprah Winfrey. It's good for ratings, probably, but substantively may ultimately prove little. Lance Armstrong got caught in a big lie and now he wants something, so anything he says publicly has to be measured against what he wants.

Which leads directly to the second play: Lance Armstrong wants to compete again. To be clear, his cycling career is done. It's not that. Instead, he wants to compete in triathlons.

And so he's trying to figure out how to do that.

The challenge is that the one thing that has always been the hallmark of the Armstrong way has been stripped from him.

Which is: control.

In its damning report, issued in October, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency made plain that Armstrong had "ultimate control" over his own drug use, and the doping culture of his team, which it made plain was the most sophisticated and well-run scheme in sports history.

In particular, he controlled -- there was a code of silence on his team -- the fact that he doped to win.

As it all came crashing down, Armstrong sent out by Twitter the photo of himself lying around with his seven framed Tour de France jerseys.

The message could not have been more clear: Lance, king of the Alps, believed he was still in control.

That was a fundamental miscalculation.

You can bet that he and his legal team were stunned not only to see the riders he thought were his guys turn against him but, more important, the breadth and depth of the file USADA made public.

That was the game-changer.

Now, with sponsors fleeing or gone, he has to try to assert control of his narrative.

Thus, Oprah.

But choosing the time, place and manner of your "admission" -- or whatever this turns out to be -- is not real.

What's real is testimony, delivered under oath, preferably subject to cross-examination. Anything else is just noise.

If you want to lie under those circumstances -- like Armstrong did in 2006, when in connection with a contract dispute brought by the Texas company SCA Promotions, Inc., relating to a 2004 Tour de France bonus payment -- then you get to face the consequences.

Which is one of the tap-dances Armstrong has to try to perform now, and why anything he tells Oprah ought to be measured against what he said under oath six years ago.

It's not enough to be apologetic, or deliver contrition, or offer a confession of sorts.

Now is the time for accountability.

It's this way when it goes bad on Wall Street and in lots of other areas of American life. The authorities can get involved, and they might or might not have their own ideas about your finances, sometimes even your liberty interest, and then you have to play by their rules, not yours.

This is how these things go. This is what USADA has made clear, and why -- according to the New York Times -- Armstrong is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice to possibly testify in a federal whistle-blower case involving the U.S. Postal Service team.

It's not hard to figure out what USADA and the public authorities want to know: who funded the scheme and who else knew about it, and at what levels -- how high -- in international sport.

If you think about it, that thread of inquiry is not so different from the kind of thing you might find at your local courthouse. Imagine a drug case involving, say, methamphetamine or marijuana -- the cops and prosecutors are typically far more interested not just in the end user but in the financiers and in the protection.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee, which is even now engaged in a far-reaching review of the roughly two dozen sports on the Summer Games calendar, has to be looking at what is going on in cycling with renewed interest. Baseball was kicked off the Olympic program in no small measure because of doping-related issues.

If it seems far-fetched to imagine the Olympics without cycling, it does not seem like much of a stretch to imagine cycling's top officials under intense scrutiny in the coming weeks and months, with even their IOC privileges at issue. USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency both made plain Tuesday that they would offer no cooperation with an "independent commission" being set up by cycling's international governing body, which goes by the acronym UCI.

In the long run, the only thing that will clean up up the sport itself is, as USADA has proposed, a "Truth and Reconciliation" and amnesty program.

In the meantime, Armstrong is not going to get out of a lifetime ban by talking to Oprah. That's just -- ridiculous.

It's what he has to say when he's not on television that matters. And that's going to take a while yet to unfold.

That said, a read of the World Anti-Doping Code strongly suggests that even if he were to name names -- even big names -- the best he could do is, first, get a hearing and then, maybe, get life knocked down to eight years.

Armstrong is now 41. Eight years makes him 49.

Which sort of makes you wonder what the Oprah thing is really all about. And when, if ever, Lance Armstrong is going to tell the whole truth, and nothing but.

Because that would be a show worth watching.


Awaiting the secrets of the "Richard W. Pound Olympic Collection"

The University of Texas at Austin has announced that it will collaborate with Montreal's McGill University to digitize the "Richard W. Pound Olympic Collection," and the only bummer is that it's going to take a good long while to see what's in the 400,000 pages that fill 350 or so boxes. Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency chief and International Olympic Committee vice-president, is of course well known within Olympic circles for his candor and wit. So there's bound to be some juicy stuff in those boxes.

The collection, which marks a remarkable coup for the Texas Program in Sports and Media, includes not only Pound's papers, among them some 700 printed titles, but his computer files, pretty much anything and everything relating to his years at the Canadian Olympic Committee, the IOC and WADA, dating back to the late 1960s.

Let's see. The investigation into the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. The founding of WADA. The boom years of U.S. marketing and television rights.

And more.

"I don't want this thrown in some vault where it's not used," Pound said in a telephone interview. "The purpose is to have available for scholars a resource that is probably unique in North America, perhaps the world …

"The further advantage is because it's mine it's not subject to the organizational limitations," meaning for instance IOC rules about mandatory waits that run to the decades to see certain materials, such as the minutes of executive board meetings.

Now the cautionary note to all this.

There is still going to be some waiting. It's likely going to take months, maybe years, before anyone sees any of this stuff in any significant detail.

Think about how long it takes you to scan stuff on your own home computer. Now think of scanning 400,000 pages. That's what "digitizing" means.

Moreover, some of this stuff is bound to be sensitive; there are bound to be reputation interests that come up. The University of Texas has really good lawyers on staff, and the University of Texas is simply not going to open these files up to just anyone when it might be sued for doing so.

Now, for another of the interesting corollary questions.

Why Texas?

After all, Pound would seem to have no obvious connection to Texas, or to Austin.

Three reasons.

One, they think creatively there. Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate papers, for instance, are now in Austin.

Two, they have resource. In January, ESPN and the university said they would be launching a new network dedicated solely to all things UT. The deal is worth $300 million over 20 years. The "Longhorn Network," as it will be called, is due to go live later this year.

Three, they have vision. The Texas Program in Sports and Media, announced in late 2009, would seem poised to become an Olympic study center of a sort the United States has arguably never had. (Disclosure: I saw it for myself first-hand last month, invited to Austin to speak to journalism and law school students.)

"The Pound Collection is a gem and will be a great asset to scholars and researchers studying the interface of sports, business, law, broadcast rights and the culture of sports media," said Steven Ungerleider, the program's chair who is also a psychologist and author of the 2001 book "Faust's Gold," an insightful study of the East German sports doping system.

As ever, the last word here ought to go to Pound. When the files finally do get opened up, he said. referring to the IOC, "You can find out whether they served croissants or fruitcake for 30 years."