Last month, Lance Armstrong boarded a plane for Denver to do something several of his lawyers had advised against: sitting down for a private conversation with the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Travis Tygart had given the star cyclist no reason to believe that USADA would soften the lifetime ban from elite competition for what the agency called the "most sophisticated doping program on the planet." But Mr. Armstrong hoped he could change that.
At the meeting near the Denver airport, Mr. Armstrong talked openly about doping, arguing that cheating was rampant in all pro sports, including the National Football League, according to someone familiar with the meeting. He complained that he was being singled out for punishment. As the discussion wound down without Mr. Tygart budging, the seven-time Tour de France winner seemed ready to walk out.
"You don't hold the keys to my redemption," he said, according to the person familiar with the meeting. "There's one person who holds the keys to my redemption," he went on, pointing at himself, "and that's me."