As the date of Lance Armstrong’s televised confession draws closer, there is now word that the cyclist and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency have discussed the outlines of a deal. The New York Times says Armstrong met last month with officials of the USADA to talk about what he could do to reduce his lifetime ban from competition, and that USADA boss Travis Tygart is willing to shorten the sentence in exchange for Armstrong’s help in snaring his enablers. Those potential targets include the current, former, and honorary presidents of the International Cycling Union, known by its French acronym, UCI. The Times says that according to its sources, Armstrong is planning to testify about ICU officials’ involvement in doping.
When we saw these reports last night, many of us at Slate went nuts. Wasn’t Armstrong the kingpin of cycling’s decades-long program of lying and cheating? Why would you cut him a deal to implicate anyone else? But when you study USADA’s 200-page report on Armstrong’s doping career (PDF), a deal begins to make sense. Yes, Armstrong deserves every day of his lifetime ban. But he’s finished. His confession seals his guilt and disgrace. The problem now is UCI, which, according to USADA, masquerades as an adjudicating body while protecting dopers. To clean up cycling, and to keep it clean, you have to take down UCI, or at least its current leadership.