Tom English: Pressure on Armstrong to name names

Picture: AFP/Getty
Picture: AFP/Getty
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Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong in January was interesting in its own way, but it was never going to be the last word on the American’s industrial-scale cheating.

For those with their eyes open, Armstrong’s guilt was obvious a dozen years ago. It took a while, but even the most gullible cheerleaders surrendered their pom-poms and turned away from the greatest fraud in the history of sport last autumn when the United States Anti-Doping Agency, through its tenacious leader Travis Tygart, published 1,000 pages of the most astonishingly detailed evidence against Armstrong. From that point, the only questions which really needed to be answered surrounded those who facilitated Armstrong’s doping and the doping that was pervasive on the teams he led.

Who were the doctors who supplied the EPO and the blood trans­fusions? Who were the team leaders who sanctioned the cheating and then lied about it? Who were the ones that covered it up? How did he get away with it for so long? What help did he have from the governing body, the UCI? What names can he name?

Armstrong refused to answer any of those questions when interviewed by Oprah. Now he may have no choice. Nebraska-based Acceptance Insurance Holding has filed a law suit in an attempt to recover $3 million paid to Armstrong in bonuses from 1999 to 2001. A Texas judge yesterday ordered Armstrong to testify about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak has instructed Armstrong to provide information about who paid for, administered and knew about his ­doping.

Armstrong must provide written answers and documents explaining when his lawyers, former teammates, cycling officials – and ex-wife Kristin – first learned of his doping. He has until the end of the month to reply. The case is due to go to trial next April.

Yesterday brought a familiar response from Armstrong’s lawyers. Acceptance was making “a spectacle” of his doping, said his legal team. His people called the demand for answers a “harassing, malicious… fishing expedition”. There was a time when Armstrong could talk – and bully – his way out of these situations, but no more. With this and other legal action to come, the Oprah interview can be seen in its proper context. It wasn’t the full story, just the warm-up act.