The jury is still out on whether Lance Armstrong is playing a clever game. As was pointed out by Anti-Doping Denmark following Michael Rasmussen's subsequent confession to doping, Armstrong decided against confessing to anti-doping authorities, instead choosing the medium of a TV interview. In terms of the way that the anti-doping community normally operates, he has yet to 'confess' to doping.
Armstrong chose not to contest USADA's evidence against him in an arbitration hearing, after a Texas Court granted USADA's motion to dismiss his appeal against the charges. This was despite the judgment stating that arbitration is the correct forum for the issues around USADA's evidence relying on witness testimony to be discussed. 'The deficiency of USADA's charging document is of serious constitutional concern', reads the judgment. 'It appears USADA's evidence will revolve more around eyewitness testimony than lab results. The Court must presume the arbitration panel will discount the weight of those results to the extent it finds them unreliable or unpersuasive. Armstrong will be able to call into question the reliability of any witness testimony, by affidavit or otherwise, that was not subject to cross-examination'.
Yet despite this, Armstrong chose a TV interview over arbitration and did not call the evidence into question. Unsurprisingly, Oprah Winfrey did not press Armstrong on this crucial issue.
As pointed out by Kris Lines and Jon Heshka in this issue of World Sports Law Report, USADA has acted as 'judge, jury and executioner' so far in the Armstrong case. The evidence against him has not been independently examined by any authority, let alone a court of law. He has not even confessed, as such. All we have is that he says he doped in winning his seven Tour de France titles, but "the last time I crossed that line" was in 2005.
It is important that Armstrong has put a time limit on his doping activities, despite USADA's evidence suggesting he was doping as late as 2010. He has publicly stated that he wants his lifetime ban reduced to eight years, which means he would be free to compete - at the latest - in 2014.
Armstrong has rejected approaches from USADA to cooperate and has focussed instead on giving evidence to a WADA and UCI-led truth and reconciliation commission for cycling. This now looks unlikely to happen, due to ongoing arguments between the two bodies over who should establish and fund such a commission.
Armstrong also faces lawsuits from a number of individuals and companies keen to recoup money. As he hasn't confessed and USADA's evidence has been criticised by a court of law, these lawsuits may prove difficult to pin down. The most important of these is a lawsuit brought by Floyd Landis under the Federal False Claims Act, which alleges that by accepting sponsorship money from the government, the US Postal Service Cycling team was defrauding the government.
However, the lawsuit asks for trial by jury. Armstrong's advisors could argue that the jury has been prejudiced by the media circus that ensued around his Oprah interviews.
Is Armstrong playing a clever game? It appears so, but only time will tell.