Beyond the ego-stroking, Walsh finally seems to be getting what the likes of Emma O'Reilly and Sando Donati warned him about: it should never have been about Armstrong, it should never have been about heaping the sins of Gen-EPO on one man. But that, Walsh is now realising, is exactly what has happened.Even now, more than five years on, a moment from a sunny morning in June 2017 brings an inward smile. I was in Bermuda, covering the America’s Cup which, as assignments go, was neither exacting nor that exciting. Sir Ben Ainslie did his best but at the America’s Cup the British boat is more likely to sink than win. So, there was time for a cappuccino.
Out in Dockyard, on the northern tip of Bermuda’s Great Sound, I sat at a table on King’s Wharf as a Norwegian ocean liner discharged its human load. They’d come from Toronto and from the mass of those trooping down the ramp, one voice rang out, “Hey,” he called, looking towards me, “are you the Armstrong guy?” You could say that.
It felt as though I needed to expose him as a cheat as much as he needed to continue winning. Jonathan Vaughters, a team-mate of Armstrong’s from the 1999 Tour, spoke with the journalist Daniel Coyle in 2004, saying that I was “a stubborn person who won’t back down. In some ways, he reminds me a lot of Lance”.
I’d laughed when first reading that. Now, I’m not so sure. Armstrong himself said something similar during a podcast with Ben Foster, the actor who played him in the film The Program: “I’m going to say something that might shock you and might shock a lot of people. David Walsh and I are very similar. We’re both extremely competitive, we’re both win-at-all-costs.” Then, in a reference to my attitude during our fraught 2001 interview in the south of France, he told Foster: “I sensed a real competitiveness and a ruthlessness. I respect that in him.”