David Walsh was given a rapturous reception at the first British Journalism Awards on Tuesday night as he picked up the prizes for Sports Journalist of the Year and Journalist of the Year.
The Sunday Times chief sports writer said he was “humbled, overwhelmed but also deeply appreciative” to be recognised for his 13-year campaign to expose cyclist Lance Armstrong as a drugs cheat.
Some 200 of the top names from broadcasting, national and regional press journalism and magazines gathered for the Press Gazette-organised event – which recognised journalism in the public interest.
“I’ve no idea what to say – I’m overwhelmed by this. I feel it’s much too much,” Walsh said, on receiving the second award.
“This is the story I always knew was going to define my life as a journalist and I knew from a long way back I was right to go down the route I’d gone.”
The Irishman reserved particular praise for United States Anti-Doping Agency official Travis Tygart, “who was a little bit of a source”.
On his investigation, Walsh said: “I felt that if I was 88 years of age and I was on a rocking chair and I had a great grandson who said: ‘Were you once a sports writer?’ I would have said I was.
“And he might have said: ‘Did you ever do anything worthwhile?’ And the only thing I think I would have said was Lance Armstrong. Because I did feel it was worthwhile… and I just thought it was worth doing.”
The judges said: “David Walsh’s investigation into doping by Lance Armstrong was a great story, not just a great sports story, it was huge.
“His 13-year investigation was dogged, determined and brave. He could have lost everything but persisted against the odds.”
Other winners included former Sunday Times foreign correspondent Marie Colvin who was given a special award posthumously for “doing more than any other journalist to raise the reputation of our trade”.