WASHINGTON (AFP) — Tyler Hamilton, a former teammate whose testimony helped lead to a lifetime ban for Lance Armstrong, on Friday praised the fallen cycling star for the television interview in which he finally acknowledged cheating after years of denials.
“I think it’s a huge, huge first step for Lance Armstrong,” Hamilton, one of 11 former teammates to testify against the U.S. cycling star, told NBC television’s “Today Show.”
“For a lot of people, it’s raw. I’ve known about it for a long time, since 1998. Big first step,” said Hamilton, whose 2012 book, “The Secret Race,” described doping by Armstrong.
“You can tell, it’s real. He’s very emotional and he’s definitely sorry. I don’t know. I think it’s going to be a hard next few weeks for him, next few months, years,” he said. “He did the right thing, finally. And it’s never too late to tell the truth.”
Hamilton made his remarks the morning after part one of Armstrong’s explosive interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, in which he confessed to having taken performance enhancing drugs, and described himself as “deeply flawed” and at times “a bully.”
Some of the most damaging testimony against Armstrong came from former teammates like Hamilton, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, and Floyd Landis.
Hamilton said he was convinced about the sincerity of the remorse expressed by the former Tour de France champion, although he said the confession is just a first step.
“It’s really what happens next, you know. The proof is in the pudding,” Hamilton told NBC.
He added that he has not been contacted by Armstrong and isn’t expecting outreach by him in the near future.
“He needs to apologize to a lot of other people before he apologizes to me,” he said.
Thursday’s explosive interview — Armstrong’s first since being stripped of his multitude of cycling honors — is seen as one of the most sensational confessions of cheating in the history of sport.
Enforcing a recommendation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in October 2012 stripped Armstrong of seven Tour de France titles and issued a life ban against him for what it dubbed the biggest doping conspiracy in the history of sport.
“I made my decisions. They’re my mistakes. And I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that… I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” said Armstrong, 41.
Before his downfall, the cancer survivor-turned-champion inspired millions across the world and became cycling’s first global superstar.