Sport Cycling

Saturday 20 January 2018

Lance Armstrong whistleblower Emma O'Reilly on her reconciliation with disgraced cyclist: 'It took from January to October before we even spoke'

Former US Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly recalls her relationship with the disgraced seven-time Tour de France champion releases in her book 'The Race To Truth'

Emma O'Reilly giving a massage to Lance Armstrong in 1999
Emma O'Reilly giving a massage to Lance Armstrong in 1999

Emma O'Reilly, one of the central figures in the downfall of the sport’s most notorious figure, Lance Armstrong, will finally reveal her side of the story.

Perfectly timed to coincide with the latest doping scandal to hit cycling – the suspension of Orica-GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey for a positive test – former US Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly releases her book The Race To Truth, in which she recalls her relationship with the disgraced seven-time Tour de France champion.

When the Irishwoman began her career in what was very much a male-dominated sport, she says she initially “clicked” with Armstrong, describing him as generous, straight and direct.

Her reluctance to get involved in doping meant, however, that she was ostracised by her team-mates and eventually she left, initially intending to keep quiet about the team’s practices.

Once she found out that people were dying from the knock-on effect of doping she decided she had a moral obligation to speak out.

It was then that Armstrong turned on her, slandering her and threatening her with lawsuits after an interview she gave to Sunday Times journalist David Walsh in 2003, which formed a central element of his and Pierre Ballester’s book LA Confidential.

Walsh does not escape O’Reilly’s criticism in the book, in which she says she was “trapped by egos on all sides: Lance, David, the lawyers, all trying to outsmart, argue against, influence and control each other while I was stuck in the middle of it. It was insane”.

Perhaps most surprisingly, considering his actions, it is Armstrong himself who writes the foreword to the book.

Although she refused to speak to him before his mea culpa to Oprah Winfrey, believing that he had only reached out to “make him look better”, she eventually relented and the pair were reconciled towards the end of last year.

"A couple of months later I sent him a text and asked him 'are you genuine about this? and if so give me a shout', about 10 seconds he was back and said 'I am genuine do you want to talk'," she told Sean O'Rourke on RTE this morning.

"I wasn't ready to talk so we just texted for quite a long time. It took from January to October before we even spoke.

"Our relationship was based on a caring relationship it was my job to care for him and in return he cared for me and he'd look out for me at times.

"Because I could remember the good times as well as the bad times. I tried to focus on the good rather than bad.

"Even though I see them (doping violators) as victims of the system they were all grown humans who could make a choice and they all made the choice. I have sympathy for the situation they were in but not the decision they made.

"How he behaved was horrendous. The machine got too big, too ugly and too corrupt."

Does she think that the sport is now relatively clean and free from doping?

"I feel the culture has really, really changed and I feel there have been so many steps in the right direction," she said.

"It's moved on so much and they are doing their best to clean it up."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport