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6 questions Lance Armstrong really needs to answer

Joel Saget / AFP - Getty Images

The cyclist's historic run of Tour de France championships made headlines, as did his fall from grace after being stripped of the titles in 2012.

Viewers who tune into Oprah Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong on Thursday will expect to see the disgraced cyclist offer some sort of admission to doping.


One can only imagine he'll talk about the incredible stress of such a demanding sport. He might suggest that his Tour de France wins still have some legitimacy since many competitors were also taking performance-enhancing drugs. If he really wants to make a play for sympathy, he could dwell on how much his cancer charity Livestrong has suffered.

But after a decade of indignant denials -- and legal threats and actions against his detractors -- that's not going to satisfy many of Armstrong's former fans. Here's what they'll really want to hear from the athlete, who promised to answer all of Winfrey's questions "honestly" before Monday's sitdown.

1. Did Armstrong dope before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996? If so, did he tell his doctors? Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former teammate, testified in 2006 that she heard Armstrong admit to his doctors that he had used human growth hormone, steroids, and other chemicals. He denied it and tried to discredit Andreu by claiming she was "vindictive and vengeful."

2. Does Armstrong have anything to say to whistle-blowers he reportedly denounced and bullied over the years? A report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency alleged Armstrong berated a loose-lipped competitor during the 18th stage of the 2004 Tour de France, tried to get an anti-doping doctor fired in 2005, and told an ex-teammate who testified two years ago, "I’m going to make your life a living…hell."

3. Was Armstrong, as the USADA report found, a mastermind of a sophisticated doping program who strong-armed other riders on the U.S. Postal Service team into juicing? In July 2010, Armstrong bristled at the suggestion he was a pusher. "There was absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated," he said. "Absolutely not."

4. Will Armstrong give authorities any information he might have about others involved with doping? His friend, the Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who has been banned by the USADA for life, claimed as recently as last month that he never saw Armstrong dope. Last week, the head of Switzerland's anti-doping laboratory denied the agency’s claims of helping Armstrong.  And there is an active investigation into Armstrong’s payments to the International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body.

5. Will Armstrong pay the price? The cyclist won more than $3 million in prize money with his seven Tour de France wins, plus $7.5 million in bonuses from the owner of the team. He's been asked to return both. The Sunday Times of London is suing him for $1.5 million over a libel settlement he scored in 2004.

6. Why now? Armstrong has never been anything but belligerent when faced with evidence of doping. Even after he was stripped of his Tour de France titles, he tweeted a photo of himself relaxing on a sofa below the framed yellow jerseys from those wins -- interpreted by many as a defiant and arrogant gesture. So if he reverses course now, what does he hope to gain? Is he bucking for reinstatement one day, preparing to launch a new athletic career, or is he actually sorry?