On Aug. 23, Armstrong capitulated and announced that he would not attend a hearing. He confessed to nothing, denied the allegations and said that he was being treated unfairly. But his system of deception, covered up for more than a decade, collapsed within weeks, breaking apart under the sheer weight of the evidence. More than 24 people had testified and his adversaries also had emails, account documents, expert reports and scientific data at their disposal. A total of 6,000 pages of documents were now available to billions of people on the Internet.
Armstrong, though, continued to insist that it was all "nonsense."
X. CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Richard Young's law firm is on the 14th floor of a building in Colorado Springs, offering a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains. Young jumps up from his desk chair and takes us to a windowless, neon-lit room. The shelves are filled with binders and books, and there are two tables covered with documents and an easy chair wedged in-between. It's a library of the anti-doping struggle. Young smiles. He calls it the "war room."
It was difficult to get an appointment with him. Young's schedule only lightened up after the UCI endorsed the USADA decision in October and Armstrong was retroactively removed from the record books back to 1998. Young, the man who ushered the world's biggest doping scandal through the official bodies of the cycling world, leans his head back, lowers his eyelids and speaks in a measured tone.
What is going to happen to Armstrong now? "I don't know. He can probably expect several civil lawsuits. Maybe he will find out that it is easier being a part of the solution rather than remaining part of the problem."
It remains to be seen if Armstrong will choose to "walk through that door," as Armstrong said. His interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he admits to having doped, will air over two days on Thursday and Friday. Depending on how he chooses to face up to his doping past, it could be his last opportunity to regain a measure of credibility, no matter how small.
Whatever he does, he is likely to face plenty of legal trouble, starting with potential civil suits. Many race organizers could sue for the return of prize money, while sponsors could invoke anti-doping clauses in their contracts. The insurance company SCA is expected to announce a lawsuit soon in an attempt to recover the millions it paid Armstrong
And then there are Armstrong's own statements, in which he denied having admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the Indianapolis hospital -- and in fact denied ever having used banned substances. Those statements, made under oath, could put him behind bars. The same thing happened to Marion Jones. The former top US sprinter lied about using performance-enhancing drugs before a grand jury and subsequently spent half a year in prison for perjury.
The FBI investigation, abandoned last February for inexplicable reasons, may also be resumed. According to media reports, the Justice Department in Washington is examining whether to take up the case. After dealing with Armstrong, USADA will turn its attention to Johan Bruyneel, the former director of the US Postal team. Italian prosecutors in Padua are investigating sports doctor Michele Ferrari. According to US investigators, Armstrong transferred a total of $1,029,754.31 to Ferrari's accounts.
One wonders what else might come to light. There is a long list of people who must fear Armstrong's confession.
XI. YEARNING FOR PEACE
Tyler Hamilton is among those eager to hear exactly how far Armstrong's admission will go. Hamilton used banned substances throughout most of his career, was caught twice and was stripped of an Olympic gold medal. Shortly after doing his own tell-all TV interview in the spring of 2011, he ran into Armstrong in a restaurant in Aspen, Colorado. According to Hamilton, Armstrong threatened to "make his life a living hell," while the restaurant owner barred him from her restaurant for life.
And what did Hamilton do? He apologized to Armstrong and the restaurant owner. Then he moved away from Colorado.
He describes the restaurant scene in his new book, "The Secret Race." When he met with a reporter to write the book, they got together in hotels where Hamilton had received performance-enhancing drugs in the past. For the meetings, the reporter would check in and then send Hamilton the room number in a text message, encoded as part of a made-up address to prevent anyone from discovering their whereabouts. Hamilton was practically paranoid.
Long an accomplice in the conspiracy, he ended up being a key witness, and now he hopes to find a path between guilt and atonement, a path leading to a future without Lance, Lance and more Lance.
In the kitchen of her house in Dearborn, Betsy Andreu is making sandwiches for lunch at the Catholic school her three children attend. The houses in the neighborhood are lit up with Christmas lights. Betsy says that her father apologized to her last Christmas and that they have reconciled, more than six years after their quarrel.
Her world is gradually falling back into place. Frankie Andreu no longer gets dirty looks or is shunned wherever he appears in professional cycling. In fact, people now reach out to shake his hand.
He and Betsy are sitting at the table, talking about the years they have behind them. Time flies by in the course of their conversation.
Frankie: "Somehow we got through it."
Betsy: "Don't you think it brought us closer together?"
Frankie: "Well, it didn't break us apart. We would have a more affectionate relationship with each other as a family if none of this had happened."
Betsy: "Wait a minute! You're saying that you're not as affectionate as you could be -- because of Lance?"
Frankie: "Don't turn my words around. The stress, the arguments, the days when we weren't speaking to each other -- none of that would have existed."
Betsy: "But my stubbornness and determination paid off in the end. We kept our inner peace. How else could we look other people in the eye?"
Frankie: "Well, she does wear her heart on her sleeve, which is a positive trait. We're not a couple that always walks around holding hands. It's more fun that way."
They both laugh, loudly and for a long time.
BY DETLEF HACKE, MARC HUJER, UDO LUDWIG, ANDREAS MEYHOFF, FRIEDER PFEIFFER and MICHAEL WULZINGER
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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