Journalist Targeted By Lance Armstrong Says Doping Admission Is 'Satisfying'
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now, Tom mentioned the Sunday Times of London. And earlier today, I spoke with the paper's chief sportswriter. His name is David Walsh and he was one of Lance Armstrong's primary targets among journalists who investigated doping. Armstrong called Walsh a troll, and the worst journalist in the world. Walsh has written four books on the cyclist, the most recent one titled "Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong."
Today, I asked Walsh if he feels vindicated.
DAVID WALSH: It's satisfying because a lot of people helped me. When I say they helped me, they were my sources, they went out on a limb to tell the truth solely for the sake of telling the truth. So I felt a tremendous satisfaction that people could at last see that these people had been telling the truth all along.
CORNISH: And you mentioned on your Twitter feed today that Armstrong has been reaching out to people you would not expect. You write: Even I'm astonished. Are you one of those people he's reaching out to?
WALSH: No. No, and I don't expect him to, and not because he mightn't want to in the way that he's been reaching out to others. But my newspaper, the Sunday Times, has got a legal case against Lance Armstrong now. Because he sued us in 2004. It was settled in 2006, but it was settled at a cost of $1.5 million. And the Sunday Times are now looking for their money back.
CORNISH: Now, Armstrong has been accused of using his fame, his money and, of course, his legal team to attack people who questioned him. What was it like being a target of that?
WALSH: I didn't mind it. I mean, it was - it seemed like at the time, and I know this might sound ridiculous, but it seemed like all was fair in love and war. And I was trying to say this guy, whom you, the world, regard as a cancer icon and the greatest cyclist in the history of the Tour de France - in my view, he's a fraud.
Well, of course Armstrong is going to be pretty upset at that, and he did react with tremendous aggression towards me. And it always kind of intrigued me, I'd say, that he could call me in print the worst journalist who ever existed, a journalist who, he said, who would lie, who would steal, who would do anything to bring me that down - and everybody seemed to think that was fine. So what? Walsh is only a blooming journalist.
But now, of course, in fairness, lots of people have tweeted me to say, look, I'm sorry I doubted you. I thought you were wrong, I now realize you were right. And that has been, I suppose, satisfying in a way. But honestly, I didn't ever for a moment think I was getting this story wrong.
CORNISH: David, at this point in looking at what Lance Armstrong is trying to do, why do you think he's doing it now?
WALSH: Because I think his life is in a kind of a purgatory now. And he can't move it out of there until he makes this confession. He couldn't begin to rebuild his life while still professing the greatest lie that sport has ever seen. Because when you hold yourself up as an icon to the cancer community, and you've built your platform - the thing that got you up there so high that everybody could see you - that platform is an entire lie. But you stand there and you accept all the applause.
And you basically go on oath and say, I never doped, I would never dope. And people believe you and they invest their trust, their love, their faith in you. Whoo, well, the only way that - when that platform crumbles, as it did with the USADA report, the only way for Lance Armstrong to begin some kind of rehabilitation was to confess to what he had done and see how people would react.
CORNISH: David Walsh, you've covered Armstrong for 13 years. Do you think that this is going to bring you closure and are you going to move on from this story?
WALSH: Well, I mean, in many ways, I did, Audie, because all the time that I was covering Lance Armstrong, I was still chief sportswriter at the Sunday Times, covering other sports. And, in a way, I kind of look forward to it, you know, not having to do all the interviews and write about Lance so much. Because it's not exactly a life-affirming story, even though I will always remember it as the most satisfying thing that I will have done in my working life.
CORNISH: David Walsh, thank you for speaking with us.
WALSH: It's been a pleasure.
CORNISH: David Walsh is the chief sportswriter for the Sunday Times of London and the author of four books on Lance Armstrong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.