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    Lance Armstrong Friend: "People Don't Have to Like Him," but He's "Done a Lot of Good"

    Lance Armstrong Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Lance Armstrong may only be making headlines at the moment for the variety of ways in which he disappointed his friends, teammates, fans and thousands of others who were inspired by his life story over the past 15 years.

    But though it's lonely out on that confessional ledge across from Oprah Winfrey, the good Armstrong has done for cancer patients and survivors like him makes it hard for some to entirely dismiss him as a fraud who duped the world by doping throughout his history-making cycling career.

    "I wasn't surprised at the admission," said Mike Thompson, a triathlete and four-time cancer survivor from Austin, Texas, who has known Armstrong since 1997 and most recently ran in a training group with him last summer. "I think he made a smart decision to finally admit to what has been going on for years and I think it was a very, very hard decision."

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    "I think it came down to the point where it had been too much and too long of a period of time," Thompson said in an exclusive interview with E! News, referring to how Armstrong persisted in denying his teammates' and other alleged witnesses' claims that he was the mastermind behind rampant doping on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

    "I don't think he meant to dupe people," Thompson said. "I think he did what he needed to to win his sport and what he could do to level the playing field."

    Count Thompson, an Ironman competitor and both a supporter and past beneficiary of Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation, among those who have expressed the opinion that it would be impossible to have won seven straight Tour de France titles without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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    Thompson says he wasn't disappointed, as many others have said they were, that Armstrong still appeared to be holding back in his sit-down with Winfrey, which attracted 4.3 million viewers last night.

    "I think if had he gone into more details he would have included [more] names and actions and he didn't want to make it about others," he says. "It was about himself coming clean and taking the blame for everything that occurred, and I think he was smart in doing that.

    "There is no reason to protect himself," he added. "There are no more Tours and he had nothing to gain from being vague. He only had others to bring down, and I think he was answering straight. If it is a true confession, which I believe it is, he did it based on him confessing and not trying to deal with legal problems he may face."

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    Thompson says he doesn't think Livestrong, which has raised millions of dollars for cancer patients and their families since its establishment in 1997, would have been the force it was if Armstrong hadn't been catapulted to the top of, not just the cycling world, but the entire sporting world by his Tour de France success after beating stage-four testicular cancer.

    "It doesn't mean what he did was OK," he says, noting that he never asked Armstrong point-blank if he had doped, and Armstrong never talked about the accusations against him. "People don't have to like him, but you have to recognize he has done a lot of good for a lot of people.

    "My biggest concern would be for his kids," Thompson says of his erstwhile training buddy, who has five children. "He loves his kids and family...You have to understand both sides of the story—him going through cancer gave him an all-or nothing-choice to give up or fight like hell." 

    "He did whatever he had to to get to the top of the mountain and there are consequences, and he will have to live with them."

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