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Cyclist Lance Armstrong once offered a large "donation" to the same agency that recently concluded he and his team had used illegal substances, causing him to be stripped of his seven Tour de Frances wins. The brazenly inappropriate gesture made to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is recounted by the agency's CEO Travis Tygart, who tells Scott Pelley the whole story of his agency's investigation of Armstrong for the first time in an interview to be broadcast on the premiere edition of 60 Minutes SPORTS tonight, Jan. 9 at 10:00 PM.
Armstrong once gave the International Cycling Union, a regulatory body for his sport, a gift of $100,000. Tygart called that "totally inappropriate." Then someone representing Armstrong tried to give USADA a large sum of money sometime in 2004. "I was stunned," he tells Pelley. "It was clear - it was a clear conflict of interest for USADA. We had no hesitation in rejecting that offer," says Tygart, who said the amount was "in excess of $150,000." Told by Pelley that 60 Minutes had learned it was $250,000, Tygart replies, "It was around that ballpark."
It had long been suspected that Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Cycling Team he led had been using substances and illegal treatments to enhance their amazing performances. The U.S. Justice Department investigated the team for two years but refused to charge him. It was a decision that stunned Tygart, especially since he learned about it from reporters. "I don't know [why they failed to charge Armstrong], Scott. It's a good question and one that if you finally answer, let me know," says Tygart.
In addition to blindsiding him on its refusal to bring charges, the Justice Department also refused to share the results of its investigation with Tygart. Regardless of the message the U.S. government may have been sending with that move, Tygart says, "Scott, we have an obligation to clean athletes and the future of sport. This was a fight for the soul of sport."
Tygart describes Armstrong and his team of doctors, coaches and riders as similar to a "mafia" that kept their secret for years and intimidated riders into silently following their illegal methods. Some of those riders are considered victims by Tygart, and he said they were forced to choose between following the doping program or being off the team, dashing the dream they had worked so hard to attain. It's what Tygart says motivates him. "It's our job, Scott, to protect clean athletes. There were victims of doping," he says.
Lance Armstrong declined to comment for this story.