Armstrong has plenty more questions to face if he is serious about competing again

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Armstrong was perhaps cycling's biggest superstar before his doping scandal broke.
Armstrong was perhaps cycling's biggest superstar before his doping scandal broke. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

So the mini series is over.

And that is all it was really: A piece of television drama, primetime voyeurism that left us with many questions still unanswered. Important questions that hopefully one day will get addressed, except not in the comfort of a television studio, prompted by a less than forensic inquisitor.

Part two was not without its drama - raw emotional drama which Oprah Winfrey thrives on.

How many parents in the rational world could possibly watch their teenage child defend their honour, knowing it was in fact indefensible?

Even the ice blooded Armstrong could not let that continue forever, in the face of such public scrutiny and growing suspicion.

Recalling the conversation with his 13-year-old son, in which he told him the truth about his Dad, was just about the only time in two-and-a-half hours, over two nights, that Armstrong faltered.

So what did we learn from Oprah's opus, or more accurately what didn't we get to know about? Unfortunately there is much.

We have learnt that Armstrong believes he deserves a second chance - that a lifetime ban is too harsh.

I suggest to him and his advisors that questioning his punishment less than 24 hours after admitting 15 years of lying, bullying and systematic cheating is probably not the most intelligent first step to redemption.

No, there are many hoops he must jump through first and many questions he must answer - questions that have not been put to him this week or at least questions that deserve more detailed examination.

Tyler Hamilton (L) cycles with Lance Armstrong during the sixth stage of the Dauphine Libere cycling race from Gap to Grenoble in 2004
Tyler Hamilton (L) cycles with Lance Armstrong during the sixth stage of the Dauphine Libere cycling race from Gap to Grenoble in 2004 Credit: REUTERS/Thierry Roge

I spoke at length to Tyler Hamilton. He is a former teammate of Armstrong's, a former doper and a former friend. Surprisingly he was very supportive of Armstrong's coming out, saying he was proud of him and how it was vital for cycling's future that the sport's biggest name came clean.

Hamilton also said that he saw a shattered Lance, an emotional Lance, a Lance owning up to things he had never considered admitting before. That he was a bully, controlling and flawed. If objective observers could not detect contrition, Hamilton, who lived and doped side-by-side with the seven-time Tour de France winner certainly could.

But while Armstrong denied ever forcing another rider on his team to cheat, Hamilton said the pressure to succeed was irresistible, and success on the Tour could only come with doping. It was fair to say, Hamilton admitted, that if you didn't dope you wouldn't stay on Lance's team.

But there is one episode where their accounts differ dramatically and the truth of this episode is, potentially, explosive.

Armstrong winning the 17th stage of the Tour de France from Bourd-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand in 2004
Armstrong winning the 17th stage of the Tour de France from Bourd-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand in 2004 Credit: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Armstrong denied over both nights with Oprah that he tested positive at the Tour de Suisse in 2001. He also denied any subsequent meeting with the lab director there or any payments to hush the whole thing up.

Hamilton's recollection is very different. He told me today that he very clearly remembers Armstrong telling him he had tested positive. Hamilton said he remembers it so well because his immediate thought was that the team was going to be thrown off the Tour de France. But Lance reassured him. Don't worry, he told Hamilton, it has been sorted. Both of them can not be telling the truth.

It is one of the areas Armstrong needs to be interrogated under oath, not trial by TV.

Lance Armstrong is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey
Lance Armstrong is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey Credit: REUTERS/Harpo Studios, Inc/George Burns/Handoui

He also needs to be probed about his $125,000 donation to the UCI (the sport's governing body). Whichever way you look at this, it stinks.

He must be asked in detail about whether he admitted to a history of drug abuse in front of many witnesses in hospital when first diagnosed with cancer - something he has consistently denied.

He must answer why he lied under oath on more than one occasion, and if he is really serious about helping the anti-doping authorities he must name names. Who knew what and when? How did he escape a single positive drugs test? Who supplied the drugs? Who paid for them? Who administered them?

Hamilton pointed out to me today that the riders were not in this murky world on their own. Others had vested interests. What about the doctors, the coaches, the team managers and others? And did anyone in authority turn a blind eye?

Hamilton also said there were those up to their necks in it when he was riding that are still involved in the sport now. They need to be flushed out.

Armstrong knows more than anyone else and if he is serious about confessing, if he is serious about helping the sport that has given him a multi-million dollar lifestyle and about getting his ban reduced, then he must open up completely.

He owes it to his sport, to anyone who has ever applauded his incredible but ultimately hollow achievements, and most importantly he owes it to anyone who has bought a yellow Livestrong band to wear on their wrists.