Armstrong's foe says finding truth the No. 1 goal
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Even those who don’t recognize his name will almost certainly know what Travis Tygart has been up to lately.
To put it simply, he’s the man who’s been making life difficult for Lance Armstrong.
Part teacher and part preacher for his cause, Tygart’s official title is chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He’s a man who doles out lessons about playing fair while also trying to cajole confessions from those who don't.
His mission: Make sports a sanctuary for finding out which athlete is most talented and has worked the hardest, not who’s the best cheater.
Most recently, that mission has led Tygart to spearhead the case that’s ended Armstrong’s cycling and triathlon careers. Only a year ago, that task seemed even more difficult than out-pedaling him in the Tour de France. Now, Armstrong has been cut loose by his major sponsors and is no longer the face of the Livestrong charity he founded.
As it turns out, the man who became Armstrong’s greatest adversary is like him in some ways.
Both Armstrong and Tygart are 41. Like Armstrong, Tygart is in great shape and loves to get on the bike every once in a while.
And like Armstrong, Tygart has a stubborn streak in him. A big one.
‘‘I saw at an early age that working hard is how you become successful,’’ says Tygart, who learned his lessons about teamwork and sports growing up in Florida, where he was on state-championship baseball and basketball teams in high school.
‘‘Playing sports as a kid, I learned all the valuable lessons that I think sports should teach. I'm determined to do everything possible to maintain those lessons for kids growing up.’’
Tygart has parlayed that credo into a career that, because of his role in taking down one of the world’s most famous athletes, has made him among both the most trusted and reviled figures in sports — even if only a small minority of sports fans would recognize him walking down the street.
‘‘I always knew I wanted to do something that made a difference. It was never about anything other than trying to change the world for a better tomorrow,’’ he says, a self-conscious laugh creeping in when he hears how much his words seem like a superhero’s catchphrase.
If it all sounds a bit sanctimonious and too good to be true, well, his critics certainly won’t argue. To them, he is a hatchet man who ran a witch hunt to settle an old score against Armstrong — a foe who eluded sanctions for more than a decade.
‘‘This isn’t about Tygart wanting to clean up cycling,’’ Armstrong wrote in a letter to The Associated Press, before USADA ordered his seven Tour de France titles stripped and before a massive report detailing the evidence against him was released. ‘‘Rather it’s just a plain ol’ selective prosecution that reeks of vendetta.’’
The case Tygart’s agency produced included testimony from 11 former teammates of Armstrong's, along with 15 others, who teamed up to paint the picture of Armstrong as a drug-pushing bully. The report exposed what Tygart calls the most extensive doping program sports has ever seen.
On Wednesday, a week after USADA’s documents were released, Armstrong left his post as chairman of his Livestrong foundation, the same day Nike announced it would sever ties with its longtime pitchman.
It was the latest in a steady drumbeat of bad news for Armstrong, all delivered — either directly or indirectly — courtesy of the agency Tygart has led since 2007 when his predecessor, Terry Madden, stepped down.
USADA was formed in 2000 as a way of taking drug cases that were decided by the U.S. Olympic Committee and placing them in the hands of a group that would be run independently. The agency is partially funded by the USOC and partially by the government. It runs on an annual budget of about $14 million and is tasked with finding and catching the drug cheats, spreading the message of clean sports and staying on top of the science in a business where the bad guys are always a step ahead.
As outside counsel, then general counsel, then CEO for USADA, Tygart has worked on every major doping case of the past decade, including the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, which showed how sophisticated the performance-enhancing drug game had grown and resulted in the prosecution of Barry Bonds.
Among those caught in USADA’s net over the years: 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis; Olympic gold medalists Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin; cyclist Tyler Hamilton; all the players listed in the Mitchell Report, which documented doping in baseball and which was put together with Tygart’s input. All have had their accomplishments stripped or brought into question.Continued...