Chris O’Dowd to play Irish sports journalist in Lance Armstrong biopic

Shooting to begin tomorrow on film based on David Walsh’s book about disgraced cyclist

Chris O’Dowd will play the part of sports journalist David Walsh in the film about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Chris O’Dowd will play the part of sports journalist David Walsh in the film about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 19:21

Irish actor Chris O’Dowd has signed up to play sports journalist David Walsh in a film about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Shooting begins tomorrow on the film, the screenplay for which is based on Walsh’s book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

It will see Ben Foster star as Armstrong, the Texan cancer survivor who won the Tour de France seven times but who was later exposed for using performance-enhancing drugs, stripped of his titles and banned from cycling for life.

O’Dowd, who has starred in TV series including The IT Crowd and Moone Boy and the blockbuster Hollywood film Bridesmaids will star as Walsh. The writer said he was very happy for an Irish actor to have gotten the role.

“I saw Chris O’Dowd in Bridesmaids and he was just fantastic and very likable. When people see him in it people will may have a very false impression of me...he’ll make me seem like a decent human being,” he joked.

Walsh, who acted as a consultant on the film working with scriptwriter John Hodge and his team as they adapted the book into a screenplay, said that he had never expected that the story would be turned into a screenplay but described the resulting project as “fantastic” and “great fun”.

Walsh is now chief sports writer of the Sunday Times, but first started working on the Lance Armstrong story in 1999 shortly after he moved to England to work for the newspaper’s British edition.

“For five or six years (the story) was a central plank in my journalistic life. At no point in my life did I feel more journalistically alive. If you wanted to be a journalist that was the type of story you were doing.”

Walsh says he has been asked many times if he had felt vindicated by the events of last year when Armstrong was stripped of the titles he had received from August 1998 onwards, including his Tour de France wins, and finally admitted to doping in public interview with Oprah Winfrey.

“I never did,” he said. “All I was doing was my job. I didn’t need vindication because it was not like I was in any doubt or needed someone to say ‘you were right all along’ - I didn’t need that. But I think the witnesses who testified against him felt vindicated,” he said.

Following a lengthy investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) concluded last year that Armstrong had been at the centre of the biggest organised doping programme ever in the sport. It also found the cancer survivor and fundraiser had groomed many other riders in his US Postal, later Discovery Channel, team to take drugs to help him win his Tour de France titles and other major races.

When Usada made its findings, its report was sent to cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, which banned the former world champion from the sport for life.