Though he’s about as close to the Lance Armstrong situation as anyone outside the cyclist’s inner circles, Indianapolis attorney Bill Bock has no idea what the disgraced athlete will say during his interview airing Thursday and Friday on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Bock, a partner at Kroger Gardis & Regas and the lead counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, isn’t sure why Armstrong chose to speak on Winfrey’s show, and he doesn’t know why Armstrong is coming forward now.
Is Armstrong merely trying to repair his image? Does he hope to get his lifetime ban from nearly all organized competition in Olympic sports reduced? Did Armstrong grow a conscience? Is he afraid of what he will someday have to tell his five children?
Right now, Bock is with the rest of us in the dark.
And while he’s not about to speculate about Armstrong’s motives, he did offer this: “He’s a human being.”
Many times over in the last year, while investigating performance-enhancing drugs in professional cycling, Bock and USADA CEO Travis Tygart have implored Armstrong “to get on the right side of the truth.”
It appears now, at least to some degree, Armstrong has heeded.
While many questions remain unanswered, Bock knows this: The war on performance-enhancing drugs is a long way from over. In fact, in some ways, it’s just beginning.
Bock said he could “neither confirm nor deny” that Armstrong has come to USADA officials offering to give them information on others involved in doping in cycling. He did confirm on Tuesday that Armstrong had met with USADA officials in person in December, adding that the meeting "was civil on both sides."
Clearly, Bock hopes the disgraced cyclist will draw back the curtain on the doping underworld. If Armstrong has any hope of returning to cycling, running or triathlon events, he will.
Bock was disappointed Armstrong chose Oprah’s show as a platform to come clean, noting that the talk show host has often provided a forum where “soft confessions” are accepted and “hard questions” are not asked.
Bock hopes Armstrong tells the whole story.
“I hope he doesn’t make a limited, unspecified confession, but rather a full acceptance of the responsibility of his part in this,” Bock said.
Bock believes Armstrong’s Oprah appearance opens “a window of opportunity” to rid cycling of its pervasive problem with performance-enhancing drugs.
“I’m hopeful at some point that [Armstrong] makes a full disclosure to USADA about what he did and who he did it with to help clean up the sport,” Bock said.
It’s clear that if Armstrong wants his lifetime ban from organized sports reduced, he’s going to have to help USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency with information that will lead them to other offenders. Bock pointed out that the stipulation for getting Armstrong’s sentence reduced would require “substantial assistance,” adding that even if the former cyclist did so, he’d likely still be facing an eight-year ban.
There will also have to be some “reconciliation to undo some of the wrongs to people hurt” by Armstrong, Bock said.
Any sentence reduction would have to be approved by USADA, WADA and cycling’s international governing body.
But it’s clear that this battle Bock and Tygart have fought goes beyond Armstrong. Bock bristles at the 1998-2010 time frame being called the “Lance Armstrong era.”
“We need to move beyond Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal and Discovery [Channel] team and better understand doping in the entire European pro peloton and why it was allowed to occur,” Bock said.
Bock appears ready to turn the page to a new chapter of this saga. He’s poised to walk through the next door—no matter how ugly the landscape is on the other side.
More than a few have whispered that cycling’s caretakers—not only the international governing body but USA Cycling—could have known about or even facilitated doping within the sport.
Bock and USADA are just now starting to work with other countries' anti-doping agencies and trying to ferret out some of the longtime doping facilitators still within the sport.
“I don’t think the sport truly cleans itself up unless it comes to grips with the degree of doping that has occurred in the past,” Bock said. “This is just the first step.”
The criticism Bock and Tygart have received for going after past transgressions instead of current dopers has mostly died down now. But not so long ago, those cries were at a deafening pitch.
Bock seemed to realize from the outset of this months-long investigation that the sport could only go forward by first looking back.