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Fox on the box: Insight into cycling cheat tries to Lance old wounds

Compelling story: Armstrong remains a combative character

A NEW two-part documentary on disgraced seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong offers a fascinating look into the life of the champion cyclist, whose dramatic fall from grace stunned sports fans the world over.

The first part of Marina Zenovich’s engrossing film, Lance, takes us from the American’s relatively humble beginnings with single mum Linda in Texas through his dramatic fight with cancer and first Tour de France success.

Archive footage is interspersed with fresh interviews with the man himself as he talks candidly of how, in his determination to reach the top, he turned to performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO or ‘rocket fuel’, to achieve his goals.

Asked if he is going to tell the truth, he opens by saying: ‘I’m going to tell you my truth.’ There follows a fascinating story of a young man who, after much success in triathlon, turned to cycling at 17 and became the most famous, and certainly infamous, rider of all time.

Unsurprisingly the subject of doping crops up early on. Asked how old he was when he took his ‘first illegal product’, he says he was ‘probably 21’.

However, he insists at first he and his team-mates at Motorola declined to take EPO. ‘It was like wildfire [in the peloton] but we refused,’ he said.

An admirable stance but one which was not to last. Not prepared to put up with second best and having witnessed the success of the Gewiss team, he engineered an introduction with their infamous doctor, Michele Ferrari.

‘Ferrari is a proponent of less is more,’ recalls Armstrong. ‘I would say to him, “Shall we try this or that”, he’d say, “Lance, all you need is red cells” — EPO raising the number of red cells and boosting oxygen levels in the blood.

After a life-threatening battle with testicular cancer, which at one time doctors said he had zero chance of surviving, Armstrong returns to cycling, eventually joining the US Postal Service team, and is soon back on the EPO.

‘Was it a difficult decision to dope after cancer? he is asked. ‘No…there’s far worse things you can put in your body.’

Part one of this gripping documentary [part two, ESPN Player, Monday, also on BT Sport] leaves us with Armstrong sealing his first Tour de France crown, one that along with six others he would be stripped of in 2012.

Armstrong may tell his version of the truth but Zenovich skilfully ensures Lance feels like the full story.