Most of the people I follow on twitter, whether professional journalists, or unattached commentators, seem extremely keen to dismiss any attempts by Lance Armstrong to belatedly confess his doping infractions. This is despite reports that he is prepared to testify against officials that facilitated his cheating. This reminds me of the vitriol hurled against Joe Papp, whose testimony to USADA and federal agencies in the US resulted in a reduced ban and a non-custodial sentence.
Many focus on Armstrong’s desire to control the Media, and indeed the role a confession might play in mitigating his exposure to civil, criminal or sporting litigation. My view is that his motives for revealing some of the institutional factors in professional cycling’s darkest times are fairly irrelevant. There is little enough incentive for elite sportspeople to be honest about the factors leading to exceptional performance: it is not enough to expect them to be honest because it is the right thing to do. That is a naïve position and will not advance efforts to control doping.
I will not applaud Armstrong for testifying to USADA, but I welcome it nonetheless. If we are serious about combating doping in sport an understanding of institutional factors and how they interact with personal motivation is essential. The Armstrong/USPS case presents an opportunity, and without his testimony, will always remain incomplete and inconclusive.