As the chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) since 2007, Travis Tygart has taken on professional cycling’s Goliath – seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and his powerful entourage. Tygart’s thorough investigation of the athlete’s use of banned performance-enhancing substances over a period of years ended in Armstrong’s disgrace. The cyclist eventually admitted to doping, was stripped of his titles and banished from the sport.
Tygart, who earned a Juris Doctor with Order of the Coif honors from SMU’s Dedman School of Law in 1999, was on campus August 26 for lectures on “Playing Fair and Winning: An Inside View on Ethics, Values and Integrity from the Lance Armstrong Case.” He talked to students and faculty at the law school and later spoke as the Delta Gamma Lecturer in Values and Ethics at an event co-sponsored by SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.
In introducing her former student, Julie Patterson Forrester, the law school’s interim dean, quoted TIME magazine, which named Tygart one of 2013’s 100 most influential people in the world: “No one would argue with the philosophy of doping-free sport, but few are willing to undertake the demanding work of identifying cheaters and imposing sanctions on them,” wrote Dick Pound, former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency. “Score one for the good guys.”
Tygart describes USADA’s role as protecting “clean athletes who are frustrated by being tainted” by cheaters. His commitment to that mission kept the attorney going despite death threats – two men were indicted in July following an FBI investigation – and an organized campaign to discredit him and derail his inquiry.
Travis Tygart talked about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of cyclist Lance Armstrong at a lecture on values and ethics at SMU.
An athlete with youngsters involved in team sports, Tygart said a “win at all costs” culture has hijacked athletics on every level – from parents giving their eight-year-old energy drinks for swim meets to Armstrong’s sophisticated doping operation. “Whether you’re an athlete or running a business or practicing law, if you build on a foundation of fraud, it is all going to come down at some point.”
Tygart joined USADA “because I wanted something bigger than myself to commit to every day.” He previously practiced sports law with a firm in Colorado. He credits his SMU education with providing “a great foundation” for his current role.
“My professors taught me to want to be a good person,” he said. “I also got a sound legal education and great experience at the legal clinics. I wrote an anti-trust paper and Title IX paper, both of which got published. All of that was good preparation when an opportunity opened up for me in sports law.”