Having not read any publicity or preamble before opening the book, the fact that Lance wrote the foreword was a shock. Was that your idea?
Yes, mine completely.
Did you think he would say yes?
I wasn’t sure. I actually didn’t think it through too much. I thought I’d ask him – I kind of liked the irony – so I thought I’d ask him and see where it goes. I didn’t actually see it until it was going into the book. In typical Lance style, it was done at the last minute. So when I actually saw it, I thought it was emotional by Lance’s standards. These sort of things get me in trouble, and yet people are liking it. We have made up, you know?
Do you believe that he is genuinely contrite? You can surely see the problem the public has in believing anything he says. They have been lied to on a massive scale.
I genuinely do. And I’ll tell you why, not because of anything flash or anything like that. It took us a long time before we even spoke. It is probably only now I trust him, because even when I went over to Florida, I thought he was sorry but there wasn’t total trust there.
But I didn’t ask to look at the foreword; didn’t give him any remit. And I trusted him enough to do something that wasn’t either all about me, or all about him.
That is very trusting. If it was me, I’d have been through it with a fine toothcomb. The next interesting vibe I picked up on in the book was the lack of support from the cycling community on all sides. Bearing in mind what you were trying to do, for nobody to fight your corner is pretty abysmal.
It says a lot about where the sport was at the time, and to some extent still is. I knew Pat McQuaid well, I know the whole family. For the president of the UCI not to even pick up the phone when he knows me on a personal level…
The level of Irish involvement of both sides of this story is incredible, isn’t it?
Isn’t it? There’s me, David Walsh, Kimmage, McQuaid. Bizarre, especially for such a small country. How we have managed to get our fingers in almost every part of the sorry tale is almost funny.
David Walsh doesn’t come out too well in the book, especially the episode of the Lance versus Sunday Times court case, where you weren’t even named as a defendant but were strongly led to believe you were.
I wouldn’t blame David fully on that. I would blame the whole Sunday Times. Everybody was equally culpable on that. And that was one of the reasons that encouraged me to meet up with Lance – there was bad done on all sides. I was not named: I was a witness.
I don’t want to rip David apart, but I wanted all the facts [to come out] from both sides. I don’t have an agenda, but wanted the human side of the story to be told, because all anybody goes on about is the drugs in the sport, and the cheating. This is a story about human beings. People were dying. That’s more important than any journalist’s career.
The letter that you sent to Bill Strickland at Bicycling magazine, in reply to the piece they did on your court testimony against Lance: did they publish that in full?
They did, yes. Poor Bill, he got a mouthful from me!
Did he take it on the chin?
Do you know what? He did. In all fairness to Bill, when the whole USADA report came out and the Oprah show, he got in touch both times to congratulate me and say that I had kept my dignity and always kept my head high. Fair play to him, because he got a mouthful from me. And he printed that letter.
That was a time in my life where I would have let a lot of things slide, but that article – saying that it was Lance’s word against Emma’s, so of course Lance would win – followed by the deposition where Lance pretty much called me a prostitute... I thought it was time to stand up and demand some respect, or at least put my side of the story.
Bill asked if I wanted to have a few words to say in the magazine. But I don’t want to get involved in the interviews if I can help it. It was never about that. It was about trying to clean up the sport.
I saw a poll of former Tour de France winners that had as many voting for Lance keeping his seven wins as against. Where do you stand on that?
I actually don’t have a problem with them still being in his name. Lance’s biggest crime was that he was the biggest bully, not necessarily the biggest doper. Where do you draw the line? He got the best results.
There’s a line from you in the book where you say you can’t stand bullying, yet you’re working for a renowned bully…
That’s a fair point, because I hate it. He never bullied me – well he did publicly – but I couldn’t take on everyone else’s battles. That’s the irony of it. I don’t think I could have been around later on in his career as he turned into that bigger bully. All the worst aspects of his character came out.
The last thing I want to ask you about is that several times in the book you say you want a quiet life, away from it all, and then you go and write a book. You have dropped yourself right back in it here…
I know! The David Sullivan Show I turned down, and I probably would have made more money out of that than I will from the book, but I said no, because that’s not me. The book gives me an opportunity to put the human side out, and that’s what appealed to me. I want it to be a positive thing: there were good times, as well as bad times.
But yes, I agree with you. I say one thing and then do another, and try and justify it in my own mind.
The Race to Truth by Emma O'Reilly is published by Bantam.