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David Walsh – The Irishman Who Took Down Lance

 “I’m Lance Armstrong, you’re gonna remember my name”

As of July 24, 2005 Lance Armstrong was one of the greatest cyclists of all time having just won seven consecutive Tour de France titles and retiring at the top. There was more to this story than just a great sportsman; Armstrong had been diagnosed with testicular cancer nine years before this in October of 1996 and given a fifty-fifty chance of surviving.

He survived cancer and defied all the odds to become one of the greatest sportspeople of all time. His fight against cancer and his newfound high status led him to setting up Livestrong which provides support for cancer victims. People the world over wore Livestrong bracelets which were signs of support for cancer victims and for Lance. As of July 24, 2005 Lance Armstrong, the boy from Austin, Texas was on top of the world in more ways than one.

 

“I thought of little else and dreamed of little else”

David Walsh was enthralled by sport and more importantly enthralled by cycling. He’d come to the sport of cycling during a golden age for Ireland; when two Irishmen named Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly were dominating it.

Walsh is a man who “stood and wept” with joy when Claudio Chiapucci beat Miguel Indurain in the Sestriere stage of the 1992 Tour de France. It seems as if he became a sports journalist to satisfy the sports fan in him. The cycling fan in him boiled over when, in 1984, he went to live in Paris for a year in order to be as close to the sport of cycling as possible.

It wasn’t long though until he saw the darker side of cycling, his first taste was particularly bitter as he heard pills rattle against plastic in the pocket of his idol Sean Kelly. Walsh chose to ignore it then but it wasn’t long until doping reared its ugly head again.

 

“If you can you’ve got to stand up and be counted”

From the 1999 Tour de France onwards Walsh continuously asked questions of the Armstrong Fairytale, doing his best to uncover any information he could. This led to him becoming a pariah of the cycling journalism world.

Friends he used to travel with during the Tour de France didn’t want to know him anymore because fraternising with Walsh meant less access to Armstrong. Cyclists chastised Walsh for breaking omerta, their code of silence.  Even his one time friend, Stephen Roche, turned on him in a now comical interview on The Late Late Show where Walsh questions Roche about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

 

He was vilified for writing and speaking about doping. Despite all of this Walsh continued his search for the truth. This enthusiasm was in some way inspired by his son John’s attitude towards life. John had died at the age of twelve when hit by a car. The stories Walsh heard about his son after this untimely death led him to believe “If you can, you’ve got to stand up and be counted. And you have to ask the obvious but sometimes difficult questions.”

 

“The Little Troll” – Lance Armstrong

In the years following the 1999 Tour de France Walsh’s scepticism about Armstrong grew and grew. The only thing that matched his level of scepticism was his dogged determination to find out the truth, it is because of this attribute that Armstrong referred to Walsh as “The Little Troll”.

The first piece of evidence was of Armstrong visiting a doctor famous for doping cyclists: Michelle Ferrari. Evidence against Armstrong began to mount: Emma O’Reilly, a former soigneur for the US Postal Team, spoke to David Walsh about Lance Armstrong, giving clear and concise details about the doping programme Armstrong was involved in; and Walsh spoke to Betsy Andreu who had heard Lance tell a doctor that he was taking performance enhancing drugs.

 

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” – Monty Python

On August 24, 2012 Lance Armstrong was given a lifetime ban from competition and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. If it wasn’t for the work David Walsh and other journalists had done this might never have happened.

David Walsh is now one of the most respected sports journalists in his profession and Lance Armstrong one of the least respected sports people in history.

James Larkin, Pundit Arena.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.