The truth always outs

Vindicated: David Walsh  - CREDIT: Rhianna Dawes

Vindicated: David Walsh – CREDIT: Rhianna Dawes

David Walsh, chief sports writer at The Sunday Times and the man who uncovered Lance Armstong’s dishonest past, presented a lecture at Portsmouth’s Guildhall this week, writes Will Carpenter, third year journalism student at the University of Portsmouth.

‘My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong’, organised by the University, detailed Walsh’s 14-year pursuit of the disgraced American cyclist and the fascinating journey to unmasking sport’s biggest fraud.

For Walsh, the period since Lance Armstrong’s doping confessions has been very busy.

“It’s been fantastic that people want to hear the truth now, because for so long, the one thing people didn’t want to hear was the truth, it’s come full circle,” he said.

Walsh spoke to a crowd of more than 600 at the Guildhall about his eventful and at times stressful quest to bring Armstrong to justice, including facing legal action from Armstrong and being abandoned by his fellow professionals on a roadside in Belgium.

Journalism lecturer Mary Williams and David Walsh

Journalism lecturer Mary Williams and David Walsh          – CREDIT: Rhianna Dawes

The group of journalists he had arranged to travel with during the Tour de France told him he was no longer welcome in the car because his pursuit of Armstrong meant that the American would not speak to him, or anyone associated with him.

Lance Armstrong had labelled David Walsh ‘a troll,’ publicly questioned his ethics and integrity and taken legal action against his newspaper. Despite this, Walsh, who will spend next week at Team Sky’s training camp, said he had never considered quitting.

“I felt the only way I could sustain the feeling that I had in terms of respect was to ask questions. I couldn’t persuade enough people to talk to me or help with the investigation, I didn’t regard that as failure because important people were basically covering up for the way cycling had gone,” he said.

“UCI didn’t want to catch Armstrong; sponsors didn’t want to catch him, the Tour de France company didn’t want to. His team, the doctors, everyone was covering up for him.

“I didn’t feel like: ‘Oh, this is affecting your integrity.’ I mean people thought that I was wrong, but I felt I was getting it right and I didn’t care what other people thought, I cared that I was doing the right thing.”

Walsh’s inquiry uncovered one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in sporting history and led to the downfall of a man previously considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. But in Walsh’s opinion, Lance Armstrong’s biggest crime was not doping or in fact the legacy he built on false pretences.

“His greatest crime was the bullying and the way he set out to destroy people’s lives,” he said.

“Many people have doped, but not many people have gone to the lengths he went to protect his lie. I suppose a huge problem for me was the way he duped the cancer community – to actually go out there and make yourself out to be this iconic figure to people affected by this horrible disease. He was prepared to accept all the plaudits, all the human worship, knowing that he was the author of the biggest lie the sport had ever known.”

The free public lecture attracted the largest audience the University public lecture series has ever attracted including students and staff from the University and members of the public. It was made possible because journalism lecturer Mary Williams contacted the journalist and writer, inviting him to speak to her students.

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  1. Sounds like a great lecture. So why wasn’t this public lecture more widely promoted around campus? I never heard about it.

    • We are sorry you didn’t hear about it, but it was widely advertised on campus, on our website and on Twitter, in the local paper and on local radio.

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