THE Manchester-based Irish masseuse who helped expose Lance Armstrong as a drugs cheat, has come face-to-face with the disgraced American cyclist in Florida.
Emma O’Reilly, who is originally from Dublin, was a personal assistant – know as a soigneur – for the US Postal Service cycling team when she first blew the whistle on the drug culture in the Armstrong camp in 2003.
On the Oprah Winfrey show in January, Armstrong identified O’Reilly as one of the people he needed to make amends with after he confessed to years of drug use.
The pair met in an Orlando hotel, where O’Reilly wanted to seek ‘closure’ by meeting Armstrong. The meeting was captured on video and on the record by the Daily Mail website.
“It was too big a situation to just have a chat about it on the phone, I wanted to eyeball him,” O’Reilly told Daily Mail reporter Matt Lawton.
“You can’t keep kicking an injured dog. I wasn’t here to humiliate him. But I wanted closure,” she added.
Armstrong travelled alone from his Texas home for the Florida meeting and hugged O’Reilly in the hotel lobby when they first met.
O’Reilly went public in a 2003 book which lifted the lid on Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs.
She was branded a “prostitute” and “an alcoholic” by the cyclist at the time.
Armstrong was eventually revealed as a drug cheat last year with help from evidence the 43-year-old woman gave to US doping investigators.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles earlier in the year and admitted that he did cheat in a pre-recorded interview with the chat show queen seen by millions across the world.
The American said of the meeting: “I never expected to see Emma. I wanted to talk to her. I felt it was necessary to have a conversation because there were definitely people that got caught up in this story who deserved an apology from me.
“When I reached out in January it was to talk. Emma, I appreciate, wasn’t ready for that. But it’s good that we are [now] doing this in person.”
Armstrong was banned for life from cycling after the United States Anti-Doping Agency accused him in August 2012 of conducting the “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen”.
Last month he vowed to testify with “100 per cent transparency and honesty” at any future inquiry into doping.