During his battle with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last year, Lance Armstrong went to extreme lengths to disparage the agency, a quasi-governmental organization charged with policing banned drug use in Olympic sports.
He called the organization a kangaroo court that flagrantly violated the Constitution and deceitfully used taxpayer dollars to conduct witch hunts. He called its chief executive, Travis Tygart, an anti-doping zealot with a vendetta against him, even as the agency released more than 1,000 pages of evidence in October laying out the case that Armstrong had doped and had been a part of a sophisticated doping scheme on his cycling teams.
The agency said Armstrong, a cancer survivor who had inspired millions fighting the disease, lied when he said he had never doped. It also said he destroyed the lives of people in cycling who dared to say he had used banned drugs.
Yet within the last month, Armstrong's representatives reached out to Tygart to arrange a meeting between Armstrong and the agency. The goal of that meeting was to find out if a confession could mitigate Armstrong's lifetime ban from Olympic sports, according to several sources.
Tygart welcomed the invitation, and that meeting occurred last month, said one source. In the end, no matter how much Tygart and Armstrong had fought each other, they still need each other.
But Tim Herman, Armstrong's Austin, Texas-based lawyer, said talks with Tygart and the anti-doping agency are not on the table. Armstrong has not met with Tygart, Herman said.
Armstrong, 41, wants to resume competing in triathlons and running events sanctioned by organizations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code. Tygart wants to know how Armstrong so skillfully eluded positive drug tests for nearly a decade.
Tygart, who declined to comment, has said in the past that he is interested in hearing from athletes who doped because they could lead him to the coaches, agents, doctors, team owners or other sports personnel who organized or encouraged doping.
"Mr. Armstrong did not act alone," the anti-doping agency wrote in its report on Armstrong. "He acted with a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers and others within the sport and on his team."
If Tygart can gather incriminating information about those people and build cases against them that could bar them from sports, he could deal a serious blow to the doping that has been enmeshed in the culture of cycling for more than 100 years. Though 11 of Armstrong's former teammates provided some information about those enablers, it is very likely that Armstrong, who kept much of the doping secretive, according to some of his teammates, knows much more.
"I think it's very valuable to them to know exactly how Lance avoided getting caught and how tests were evaded," said Jonathan Vaughters, a former Armstrong teammate, a vocal anti-doping proponent and current co-owner of the Garmin-Sharp professional cycling team. "They need someone on the inside to tell them how it was done, and not just anyone on the inside, someone on the inside who was very influential. Someone like Lance."
Vaughters said a confession by Armstrong might encourage other riders to say what they know without penalty.
"We almost have to destroy the sport in order to save it," he added.