Thor Hushovd has been a Norwegian hero for years, but found himself having to fend off criticism from many fronts on Thursday over his decision to stay silent about fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong’s doping. Others claimed Hushovd was “probably afraid” to take on Armstrong and the doping problem that has tarnished his sport.
“No, should I take up the fight against everybody? Shall I be the one to clean up all this?” Hushovd asked rhetorically at a press conference in Oslo on Thursday, at which he was officially launching his new auto-biography. “No, I shall not.”
In his book, Hushovd admits that he knew Armstrong was guilty of doping for more than a year before Armstrong admitted it publicly, and Hushovd is being criticized for failing to report Armstrong’s cheating and drug abuse. On Thursday, an American witness for the FBI in the case against Armstrong told Oslo newspaper VG that Hushovd should be “ashamed” of himself, while anti-doping officials in Norway have also expressed disappointment that Hushovd didn’t come forward with what he knew after Armstrong himself admitted his doping to Hushovd in 2011.
‘Not my job’
“I didn’t see it as natural to go to someone and say what he (Armstrong) said when he was a friend,” Hushovd said at the press conference. “I was in perhaps my best season. It can well be that I should have said something to someone that he did it (doping), but I don’t think that’s my job.”
Others do, not least the head of Antidoping Norge, who claims that a “culture of silence” within cycling makes it much more difficult for authorities to succeed at their jobs of cracking down on illegal use of performance-enhancing substances. Both the head of Norway’s cycling association and the head of Norway’s national athletics association also said on Thursday that Hushovd should have told authorities what Armstrong had told him. But for Hushovd, reporting his former friend to the authorities was out of the question.
“I never considered taking contact with Antidoping Norge,” Hushovd said at Thursday’s press conference. “The way he (Armstrong) admitted it to me (was) ‘Let’s face it, we all did it.’ And then we just let the subject die. I had no further curiosity. I didn’t ask who are ‘we’ and what did you take. That’s perhaps naive, but I have chosen to be naive in this sport.”
He admitted that his view of his former idol Armstrong has changed, and the two have not had any contact in the past year or two. “There’s no friendship now,” Hushovd said. “I have said earlier that I could take a cup of coffee with him if he called, but I don’t think I’ll get that coffee invitation now.”
Feared the consequences
Cyclist Mads Kaggestad, a former teammate of Hushovd’s, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that he thinks Hushoved was “afraid to talk about what he knew.” Armstrong was still powerful in cycling circles and cyclists pretty much kept mum. “Theoretically he (Hushovd) should have gone to the proper authorities,” Kaggestad told NRK. “But the way things were, this came as overwhelming information that hit Thor hard.”
Hushovd admitted he feared the consequences of reporting Armstrong, but mostly because he worried it would ruin his own cycling career. “I have been clear about where I stand on the (doping) problem, but if I had been the big king of the hill I’m afraid of what could have happened,” he said. “It could have led to more rumours. My life could have been ruined. I couldn’t have concentrated on cycling that year.”
“But look here, I have won some cycling races,” asked the reporters assembled for his book launch. “Doesn’t anyone want to ask about that?”