Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong came face to face last week while giving evidence during a US federal government false claims lawsuit against Armstrong and others. The federal suit was instigated by the pair's former teammate Floyd Landis, who helped kick off the chain of events that led to Armstrong being banned for life by USADA for doping in 2012. Armstrong and several others are accused of defrauding sponsor US Postal Service, part of the federal government, by cheating through doping.
It was the first time the pair had been in the same room since their chance encounter at an Aspen restaurant in 2011. Hamilton described the more recent moment as "strange" but said the two shook hands.
Hamilton revealed his meeting with Armstrong during a trip to New Zealand to attend the Sport New Zealand conference.
"It was strange, strange. We spoke. Small talk. He laughed at my hair, I laughed at his beard, like all mates would do. There were a lot of lawyers around and officials but, yeah, we shook hands a couple of times," the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported Hamilton as saying.
"It was not easy for me to answer direct questions about him, what we went through. There's a lot at stake. I've read in the papers that it could be up to US$120 million [damages]."
"I don't know what he thinks but I know what I need to do. You answer questions that could affect that and that is mind-blowing but I went in there and told the truth. But it [also] sucked [as] there were some questions about his character, with him sitting right there, some of the bullying and stuff."
Hamilton and Armstrong were teammates and close friends at the US Postal Service team before they became rivals and enemies after Hamilton began his own career as a Grand Tour contender. Hamilton tested positive for blood doping in 2004 and then tested positive again in 2009.
With federal investigators breathing down his neck, he confessed to doping in May 2011, telling his own story and accusing Armstrong in his critically acclaimed book 'The Secret Race'.
Armstrong’s own fall from grace came just after, in 2012, thanks to the testimony and evidence provided by Hamilton and many of his other former teammates.
The whole truth
Hamilton said he had respect former New Zealand rider Stephen Swart, who went public in 2005, describing how he, Armstrong and others decided to use blood-boosting drug EPO in order to compete in the 1995 Tour de France.
In a video interview with the Herald newspaper, Hamilton confirmed that he tried to avoid ‘ratting out’ on his former teammates because he knew there would be major consequences.
"I backed up to the edge of the cliff and so when I said no to the proffer, they came after me with a subpoena, which means you tell the truth or you go to jail. So it was either jump off (the cliff) or tell the truth," he said.
Hamilton said he is now most proud of telling the full truth of what he did.
"It took a long time, I lied and cheated for a long time. You’re living a double life, filled with secrets and lies. I was a mess inside."
He is convinced that Armstrong needs to tell his own truth and warned that it is important to learn from the past.
"For him, for the sport of cycling, for all sport, I think we do need to hear the whole truth. Whether or not we'll hear that, we'll see."
"I think the public wanted to hear the truth and they got the major truth - that he doped during his seven Tour victories - [but] they want more of the truth. He held back a little bit for various reasons."
"If we don’t learn from what happened in the past, it will happen again, for sure. It (doping) still exists, 1000%. We’ve seen this much (holding up two fingers) of the truth."
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