herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Armstrong slams Walsh's support for child abuser

Disgraced former Irish Times journalist Tom Humphries. Photo: Courtpix
Disgraced former Irish Times journalist Tom Humphries. Photo: Courtpix

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has hit out at journalist David Walsh over his support of child abuser Tom Humphries.

It comes after Mr Walsh, chief sports writer for the Sunday Times, said he "couldn't abandon" fellow sports journalist Humphries, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child.

Mr Walsh sparked outrage by writing a character reference for Humphries, which was handed to the court last week.

Mr Walsh helped to expose Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs and the pair have an antagonistic history.

Appalling

Armstrong told the Herald that he believed Mr Walsh's action was "appalling and totally inexcusable", though he also admitted he did not have much credibility speaking out on the issue.

"Having said that, it's not surprising. David does what David wants," he added.

Separately, in an interview with Matt Cooper recorded in December 2012 but broadcast on his Last Word show on Today FM for the first time yesterday, Mr Walsh repeatedly called Humphries a "fine man".

The allegations against Humphries had been made by that stage and Mr Walsh claimed he knew about the charges in the case "better than most people".

"I maybe know a bit more than most people about the charges and about the situation that Tom has found himself in. There's no question in my mind that he is a fine man," he said.

It was put to him that a comparison could be drawn between someone defending Armstrong and his defence of Humphries.

Lance Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour De France titles for doping offences after Walsh spent years trying to expose him. Photo: GETTY
Lance Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour De France titles for doping offences after Walsh spent years trying to expose him. Photo: GETTY

"I think the comparison you've made is odious, I really do, I think it's completely inappropriate," he said.

Mr Walsh was quoted in the Sunday Times over the weekend defending his decision to write a letter of support for Humphries.

"The young girl whose trust Tom betrayed has suffered terribly from this crime," he said.

"I wrote a personal character reference for Tom because we have been friends for 30 years and, despite the serious wrong he had done, I could not abandon him."

His defence of the letter led to abuse survivor Fiona Doyle calling for Mr Walsh to be sacked from his position at the newspaper.

She described it as "sickening" and "unbelievable". "To give a reference for a paedophile goes beyond comprehension," she said.

When asked if he believed Mr Walsh should consider his position as a journalist in light of the scandal, Armstrong responded glibly.

"Knowing him, he'd likely consider he should be promoted and get a pay raise," he told the Herald.

Mr Walsh exposed Armstrong as a drug cheat nine years before the American finally confessed and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Armstrong even sued Mr Walsh and the Sunday Times for libel after it printed an article in 2004 that suggested Armstrong was doping.

In 2006, the paper paid Armstrong £300,000, the equivalent of around €335,500 now, to settle the case.

Abused

Last week, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard how Humphries had picked the then 16-year-old girl up from her school and taken her to his apart- ment, where he sexually abused her.

The first contact between the pair was initiated by a text message from Humphries when the victim was aged 14 and correspondence between them continued for two years.

Humphries will be sentenced on October 24 for sexual offences against a child.

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