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UNH law professor chats with Lance Armstrong

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2009 file photo,  Lance Armstrong prepares for the final stage of the Tour of California cycling race in Rancho Bernardo, Calif.  The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is bringing doping charges against the seven-time Tour de France winner, questioning how he achieved those famous cycling victories.  Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. He maintained his innocence, saying: "I have never doped." (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2009 file photo, Lance Armstrong prepares for the final stage of the Tour of California cycling race in Rancho Bernardo, Calif. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is bringing doping charges against the seven-time Tour de France winner, questioning how he achieved those famous cycling victories. Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. He maintained his innocence, saying: "I have never doped." (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

With the recent publicity surrounding Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker whose girlfriend didn’t exist, local law professor Michael McCann wondered whether those tweets and emails were actually from Lance Armstrong.

Turns out they were, which is why his story, from a one-on-one interview at the disgraced cyclist’s home in Texas, will be published in the latest Sports Illustrated, due out today.

“I didn’t actually speak with him before I left, so I could have gone there, and it could have been a hoax,” said McCann, who was recently hired by the University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord. “On the other hand, if it turned out that it wasn’t true, then you chalk it up to a trip to Austin that didn’t pan out. That was my attitude, that if it wasn’t true, life goes on.”

McCann, who received his master’s degree in law from Harvard in 2005, lives in Andover, Mass., and is currently teaching at Vermont Law School. He starts his new job here in the fall and has been a part-time staff writer for Sports Illustrated for six years, reporting on legal issues connected to sports.

His articles about the seven-time Tour de France champion and the pending lawsuits against him caught Armstrong’s attention, prompting him to reach out to McCann.

“He has found me to be a relatively neutral voice in terms of my coverage of him on his legal issues,” McCann said. “He’s found me to be fair, relative to other writers. He followed me on Twitter and reached out to me, and I contacted him and we began a Twitter correspondence.”

McCann’s interview, Armstrong’s first since he broke his silence about blood doping and illegal drug use to Oprah Winfrey in January, took place in Armstrong’s office, part of his 7,800-square-foot estate.

Armstrong set certain ground rules, like no quotes, no cameras and no recording devices, plus large chunks of the three-hour interview were off the record.

“I preferred to quote him,” McCann said, “but at the same time, the government is suing him and he’s a defendant in a number of lawsuits, so I understand his concern about direct quotes, which can be used in a trial.”

McCann learned that Armstrong strongly considered granting Tom Brokaw that initial interview. He also said that Armstrong was apologetic and combative at the same time, adding that he made sure to mention that most of the top riders were cheating as well.

“I think he’s contrite to an extent,” McCann said. “He’s sorry, certainly, that his fans are disappointed in him, and that’s something that means a lot to him.

“But he definitely has a fighting spirit in terms of these lawsuits,” McCann continued. “There are some good reasons where these lawsuits may not succeed, and he believes he has a strong defense.”

McCann cited the whistle-blower suit, which argues that Armstrong defrauded the government after the U.S. Postal Service invested $30 million to sponsor his team.

“The government’s own studies apparently indicate they made perhaps three times what they invested,” McCann said. “So his argument is, where’s the damage that the government is alleging?”

Elsewhere, Armstrong told McCann that many claims against him stem from his behavior years ago, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

“Those are credible legal arguments,” McCann said. “Whether they work or not remains to be seen, but he’s certainly thought through this situation very carefully.”

Many of McCann’s toughest questions, which he said elicited polite responses from Armstrong, resulted in off-the-record responses, although he did comment on the perceived conflict of interest that arose when he donated $125,000 to the International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body.

“The implication was he donated the money to get favorable treatment in terms of drug testing,” McCann said. “His response was he had a lot of money at the time, so he felt it was the right thing to do.”

When asked whether McCann liked Armstrong, McCann said, “I don’t want to say I liked him like a friend, because I don’t know him. But I respected the way he answered my questions.”

McCann added that Armstrong, while worried, is confident about his upcoming days in court because “he gave every indication that regardless of his mistakes morally, that legally he believes he’s on strong footing.”

As for the skepticism McCann felt as his relationship with Armstrong unfolded, he said he became convinced this was the real deal after landing at the airport, hopping in his rental car, plugging in the address he’d been given into his iPhone and pulling up to a really big house.

“I figured at that point,” McCann said, “that if this was a hoax, they’re pretty good at it.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler
@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments5

Obviously Armstrong is a very controversial person which is why the article was put on the front page. That's fine. He cheated. He lied. He threatened. And he did it for years. Yet I still have a certain amount of respect for him. He DID beat cancer. He DID start Livestrong for all the right reasons. It is impossible for most Americans to understand why he did what he did. He was competing in an incredibly competitive sport with the cream of the crop from around the world riding in a grueling, punishing 3 week long race meant to push the body to it's limit. And he was doing this against people who were also taking illegal drugs and blood doping. Those who follow cycling know that the sport is rife with these people. They are the rule, not the exception. Had Armstrong not won the Tour, whoever came in second would have also been doping. No, it doesn't make what he did right. But I understand why he did it.

Sorry Gen Xer. There is no justification for cheating. If someone does something illegal, report them and get them kicked out. Any athelete that has doped has no respect for the game. All about winning. Maybe he started LiveStrong to get personal recognition for himself as he is an egomaniac. I am glad he did for all the money that has gone to cancer research. He is a poor example of someone to be admired in my book. And he is looking to get a pass for doping. Read about him and his bullying of teammates, etc. I think he is a loser.

Life isn't so black and white. It's almost always shades of gray. This is how I would try to make someone understand. Say you're a baseball pitcher. Not just any pitcher but one of the best in Major League Baseball. You can throw 95 mph fastballs when most of the others can only throw 85-90. You start hearing rumors about a drug that can give you a physical advantage. But you think: "I'm already one of the best, I don't need anything". After the off-season you come back to spring training. Suddenly everyone is throwing 95-100 mph fastballs. You just went from being one of the best to being average or even below average. You know what's going on. The other players know what's going on. The manager knows what's going on. But everyone wants a winning club. You have three choices: 1. you can go to MLB and accuse your teammates of cheating (with very little evidence) and become a "problem" in the clubhouse; 2. you can just keep throwing as hard as you can and continue to lose ground to your teammates and perhaps lose your contract and your livelihood; 3. you can start taking the drugs yourself and restore your place as the team's best pitcher throwing 105 mph fastballs. I'm not saying what Lance did is OK. I'm just trying to show folks how this happens in pro sports. And once the lies start rolling, it's hard to stop them--especially when everyone is complicit and has so much on the line.

I can understand what you are saying Gen X. But it does involve accepting things as being a fraud. Takes the integrity out of sports. I am totally aware of all the doping in sports, especially baseball. You could take your point even further by saying a pro athelete's career is short so dope up and extend that career and how much you are paid. It is sad though that we seem to see more and more folks accepting bad behavior on all levels. Then puting out excuses for that bad behavior by stating they had no choice. I guess you always have a choice. But these days greed, dishonesty, and lack of integrity seem to prevail. Sad..

This guy is such a loser. I do not get why folks care about what he says. He is not sorry for cheating. That was evident by his interview with Oprah. He is hoping that McCann can find a way for him to get off via statue of limitations or another lawyer trick to have the charges droped. Armstrong has no moral fiber whatsoever. His association with Livestrong was for his own benefit to focus on himself and present himself as a terrific person. It is all about Lance, who is nothing more than a fraud, egomaniac and a bully.

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