Irish journalist David Walsh on taking down Lance Armstrong: 'I don't feel any guilt, I really don't'
As The Program is released nationwide, David Walsh tells Stephen Milton how he feels about exposing the wrongdoings of a sporting icon
Stripped of his seven Tour De France wins after shocking revelations of doping, former cycling legend Lance Armstrong is a broken man.
Slapped with a lifetime ban and with his reputation in tatters, he’s now a sporting pariah with the threat of bankruptcy ever present thanks to a slew of lawsuits from insurers and sponsors.
And David Walsh, the Irish journalist who exposed his epic wrongdoings, feels absolutely no guilt whatsoever.
“Oh god no, I don’t. People say, you must have compassion for him, with how difficult his life is now. And I really don’t. I could maybe begin to feel sympathy had I felt he had told the whole truth. I know he hasn’t.
“And there’s good reasons why he can’t tell the truth. When he sued the Sunday Times and myself, he’s perjured himself from beginning to end, so he can’t give it all up now.
“That’s criminal offence. People have done jail time for much less.”
After doggedly pursuing Armstrong for 13 years, where he endured threats, legal action and ostracisation from large swathes of the press, Walsh was vindicated in 2012 when charges were finally brought against the Texan.
And he admits never once feeling tempted to give up.
“I was told so many times, ‘You’ve got to let this go, it’s eating into you; it’s affecting your family. All the things you do, your other work.’ But I didn’t have a choice. I had sources who put their necks on the line, how could I walk out on them,” Walsh says.
“How could I decide that I was fed up and walk away? I couldn’t do it.”
Chronicling the experiences in his bestselling tome, Seven Deadly Sins; My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, it’s now the inspiration for a new movie, The Program, starring Chris O’Dowd and Ben Foster.
And thanks to this big screen treatment, David is heartened that his epic battle will never be forgotten.
“Without seeming arrogant, it feels really good. The Tour de France could be starting in Ireland in 2028. And that week, someone in RTE could say, ‘Let’s show that film about Lance Armstrong and David Walsh, Chris O’Dowd etc.’ And it will be there and be relevant.
An article or a book, they don’t get forgotten but they get consigned to history. A film isn’t so easily done. It gets dragged up and has a shelf life that’s much longer and much more significant. And won’t be so easily forgotten.”
While the opportunity has yet to present itself, Walsh, 60, would like the chance to meet with Armstrong to draw a line in the sand. But only if he finally tells the whole truth, even off the record.
“I think Lance would probably say, ‘David, let’s sit down and have a chat,’ and I would say, ‘I will, providing you’re sitting down with the intention to tell me everything. I don’t want to hear him say, ‘I can’t go there’. Even if I can’t write what he tells me, for good reasons that will get people in trouble, I can’t listen to anymore bull. It’s got to be the truth. But I’m not holding my breath.”
The Program is in cinemas now