Norway’s newly retired world champion cyclist Thor Hushovd was being roundly criticized Wednesday night for failing to reveal that his former friend and rival Lance Armstrong had engaged in doping. Armstrong admitted the doping to Hushovd in 2011, long before Armstrong famously went public with his doping history to American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.
“We think it would have been natural to take contact with the anti-doping organizations,” Anders Solheim, leader of Norway’s anti-doping organization Antidoping Norge, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Solheim was clearly disappointed that Hushovd didn’t share what he knew about Armstrong, noting that the anti-doping movement relies on athletes to tell what they suspect or know about anything that has to do with doping in competitive sport.
Hushovd, who won 10 stages of the Tour de France during his cycling career, finally revealed in his new autobiography going on sale this week that he visited Armstrong at his home in Hollywood, California in May 2011. “We had started talking about the accusations from Tyler Hamilton when Lance, with no prodding, admitted to doping,” Hushovd wrote. “It was possible he noticed that I was stunned, because he looked at me, pulled his shoulders back and said, ‘Thor, everyone does it.'”
“I wanted to say that he was wrong,” Hushovd wrote. “That it absolutely wasn’t true that everyone was doping themselves. That I didn’t do it. But I was stunned. I didn’t say anything. I felt it was wrong to say anything.”
So he kept his mouth shut, failing to challenge Armstrong or to reveal what he’d been told to the authorities. Hushovd even appeared with Armstrong a year later, in a report in 2012 on NRK showing them both smiling and laughing together. Hushovd admits in his new book that he also spoke very carefully about Armstrong when questioned by the media, not wanting to lie but still not wanting to reveal Armstrong’s doping before Armstrong eventually did himself. It wasn’t until 18 months after his admission to Hushovd in Hollywood that Armstrong finally came clean, and then was banned from all competitive sport for the rest of his life.
“Many will surely claim that I all but defended Lance,” Hushovd wrote. “I had no need to convict him. Why should I hop onto the wave and blast Armstrong because circumstances and the media expected that?” Hushovd didn’t publicly criticize Armstrong until after he admitted his doping on American TV, and then Armstrong was furious with him, according to the Norwegian cyclist’s book. Hushovd wrote that he received an angry text message from Armstrong in which he wrote: “Do you really think I’m the only one cheating out there? How stupid can you be!”
Norwegian cycling expert and former Tour de France stage winner Dag Erik Pedersen said he was surprised that Hushovd knew about the doping, if not the extent of it, for so long and still kept quiet. “He should have said something,” Pedersen said on NRK’s national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen Wednesday.
Hushovd, who had won the cycling world championship just the year before, may have had some personal reasons for staying mum as well. Pedersen noted that Armstrong’s admission to Hushovd came just as the summer cycling season was getting underway, and if Hushovd went public with what he’d been told, he would have been hounded by the media and, as Hushovd also admits fearing, been called in as a witness against Armstrong. That would have seriously robbed him of time and energy that he wanted to devote to his own cycling, Pedersen said.
Solheim of Antidoping Norge said that while he thinks it should have been “natural” for Hushovd to reveal what he’d been told, “there wasn’t the climate for whistle blowing in 2011 that there is in 2014.” Solheim claimed there has been a “culture of silence” within cycling, “that you don’t say what you know about doping. That’s a challenge for anti-doping work within the sport.” He said it was, at least, “positive” that Hushovd has revealed what he knew now.