Re-signing Fernando Alonso would be a "no-brainer" for Renault, but McLaren chief executive Zak Brown wonders whether he has the appetite.

Renault will lose Daniel Ricciardo to McLaren at the end of the 2020 Formula One season but Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are high-profile candidates to replace him.

Alonso, a two-time F1 world champion with the French outfit, walked away from the series in 2018 following four tough years with McLaren and has gone on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and participate in the Dakar Rally, while a third attempt at the Indy 500 is planned for this year.

The Spaniard's manager Flavio Briatore this week claimed the 38-year-old is ready to return to F1 and Brown thinks it makes sense for Renault to make an approach.

However, he is unsure Alonso would be willing to drive for a team that is not challenging for victories.

Brown told Sky Sports: "I spoke with him the other day, I was kinda poking around, and I think he's undecided.

"If I was running Renault that's who I'd put in the car; a big name, fast as anyone, won two championships with them so he's got history.

"So from a Renault perspective I think he's a no-brainer to put in, but whether Fernando wants to get back to 22 races with a car that doesn't look like it's capable of winning yet.

"With Fernando's stature what would get him to jump in a seat is if he thinks he can be on the top of the podium.

"Given they're on a similar journey back to the front [to McLaren] - and I think they'll get there, they're a great team, great resources, great company whose been there done that before - I don't know if Fernando has the appetite to be on a three-year journey rather than getting in a car that he can win in in '21."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said a move for Vettel would be "a good marketing story" for the Silver Arrows, who look like the four-time champion's only other option to Renault.

News of the German's decision to leave Ferrari after the 2020 campaign came too late for McLaren to make a move and Brown hopes it does not leave him without a seat next season.

"We were already far down the path with Daniel, we knew it was either going to be Daniel or Carlos in our car. We knew that in the winter. By the time this all popped up with Seb, our ship had sailed," said Brown.

"I like where Daniel's at in his career, he's got something to prove, he's hungry. Seb's an awesome champion. I don't know what will happen with him, kinda like Fernando because if he wants to get in a car where he can go and win the championship right away it doesn't appear those seats are available, so does he want to hit the reset button and get on a three-year journey somewhere or is he done?

"I think he clearly still wants to race so it would be unfortunate if you had a four-time world champion who wants to race but can't find that seat that he deserves."

The 2020 Challenge Cup final has been postponed, though the Rugby Football League (RFL) hopes the game will be played this year.

Wembley Stadium was due to host the fixture on July 18 but, with the season still suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, that will no longer be possible.

The Challenge Cup had reached the sixth round before the rugby league campaign was halted in March.

However, the RFL said in a statement: "The intention remains for the finals to be played later in the year – contingent on the public health situation and government advice."

Warrington Wolves are the holders of the famous trophy, recording an 18-4 triumph over St Helens last year.

The AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final – a competition for Championship and League One teams – was due to be staged on the same day at Wembley, with that fixture also called off.

McLaren chief Zak Brown understands why Daniel Ricciardo previously turned them down for Renault but feels confident he can take the team to the next level after agreeing to join from the 2021 Formula One season.

Ricciardo chose Renault over McLaren when he decided to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 campaign, but his hopes of becoming a world champion moved no closer in a disappointing year with the French outfit.

The Australian 30-year-old managed just eight points finishes across the entire season, finishing ninth in the drivers' standings.

With Carlos Sainz agreeing to take up the Ferrari seat Sebastian Vettel will vacate at the end of the year, Ricciardo will finally move to McLaren and Brown believes a change in the team's structure proved key to securing his signature.

"Getting a grand prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign we're going in the right direction. He believes in that," Brown told Sky Sports.

"We went after him a couple of years ago before he made the decision not to join us. I've talked to him about it since and he went, 'You were coming off a pretty poor season' - which was putting it politely - but also there was a lot of, 'This is what we're going to do to rebuild the team.'

"I hadn't brought in yet [team principal] Andreas Seidl or [technical director] James Key or restructured the leadership team. So there were a lot of promises and, coming off such a bad season, I can see how he would go, 'Oh, let's see how this plays out.'

"He likes how it's played out, I've liked how it's played out. He's seen the changes we've made, the leadership Andreas has brought, the backing we have from our shareholders, going to the Mercedes engine.

"We're a team on the move and I think he's going to help get us to the next level."

Brown suggested reports Ricciardo will earn £31million per year are wide of the mark but insists McLaren have spent wisely.

"I think he's definitely worth it otherwise we wouldn't have done it. What's been reported [on wages] is not accurate, but he is a very well-paid driver. I think he's worth it," said Brown.

"He's won seven grands prix, and I think in the right car he's capable of winning a championship immediately.

"He's extremely marketable from a commercial standpoint. He's a very exciting driver and I think the combination of he and Lando [Norris] will be awesome, they'll be the fan favourites on and off the track.

"If I look back at the history of McLaren, it's been some time since we haven't had either one or two world champions in the team, and not having grands prix winners in the team.

"I think it's definitely a step forward for us on our journey to have a grand prix winner on our team."

The NRL has announced the six venues that will stage fixtures when the 2020 season resumes at the end of May.

Bankwest Stadium, Campbelltown Stadium and Central Coast Stadium will host fixtures, as well as Suncorp Stadium, Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville and AAMI Park.

The locations have been chosen to host games until at least the end of round nine as the competition prepares to return to action, starting with Brisbane Broncos against Parramatta Eels on May 28.

Action was suspended after two rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The competition will begin with a consolidated approach to venues," acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

"Each venue requires customised infrastructure to meet our strict biosecurity requirements. We've adopted a phased approach for venues should restrictions be eased in the future.

"We've chosen three consolidated venues for clubs in and around Sydney to ensure there are no double headers at venues and in different parts of the region to meet the geographical challenges we face."

The Eels will be sharing Bankwest Stadium with Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters.

Campbelltown is the location for St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers, Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders, while Newcastle Knights and Manly Sea Eagles will play out of Central Coast Stadium, along with the Gosford-based New Zealand Warriors.

Suncorp Stadium will house the Broncos as per usual, as well as Gold Coast Titans. As for North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm, they will be in the familiar surroundings of Queensland Country Bank Stadium and AAMI Park respectively.

The draw for the remainder of the season will be revealed on Thursday, though home venues will only be allocated until round nine.

Tyson Fury has vowed to continue proving his doubters wrong as he targets a long reign of heavyweight boxing dominance.

The WBC world champion is preparing for a third fight against American Deontay Wilder, who he stopped in February to claim the title.

Fury insists he has never changed, nor have the people who are queuing up to tell him he cannot succeed.

"They said I'd never do it, they said I would never have the dedication," Fury said to Sky Sports.

"Then they wrote me off because I wasn't body beautiful like everybody else, then they wrote me off because the heavyweight champion of the world was Wladimir Klitschko. 

"I had to go to Germany, that was a write-off, and then they wrote me off because I went to 28 stone and had mental health problems, but that couldn't keep me down.

"Then they wrote me off because I had to fight the biggest puncher in the history of boxing [Wilder] after only two, petty comeback fights, but that didn't keep me down.

"Then they wrote me off, because I'm all washed up and I can't take a punch anymore, and then they wrote me off because I got a massive cut. Then they wrote me off because I had 10 changes of trainers.

"Then they wrote me off because Wilder was going to be better the second time around.

"Then they wrote me off because they said they didn't believe in what I was going to do and I'm a feather-duster puncher, and I can't crack an egg, and I'm useless.

"But here I am today, stand-alone heavyweight, leading superstar in boxing. I'm still fat, still ugly, still bald, still a big man, and I'm still unstoppable."

Fury believes he has "completed" boxing, but with retirement plans put to one side he now wants a long stint as champion like Klitschko had before their 2015 bout.

He added: "I've achieved more than any active heavyweight alive today. If I never have another boxing fight, I'll be happy. I've completed the game.

"Nothing to prove to anybody but why walk away when I'm still only young? Klitschko did it until he was 40. A lot of the great champions are continuing and continuing. 

"I ain't boxing for money, I ain't boxing for fame, I ain't boxing for a belt. I'm boxing because it keeps me mentally happy and I like to do it.

"Hopefully I box until I have a good sit down with all the team and we all decide it's time to walk away, while I'm on top, and then sail away into the sunset."

Khabib Nurmagomedov has confirmed his father is in a critical condition as he battles coronavirus.

The undefeated UFC lightweight champion explained Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov underwent heart surgery last year and has had another procedure after suffering complications from contracting COVID-19.

Khabib said he knows several others who have been affected and urged people to stay home during the global health crisis.

"In my personal case, I've had more than 20 people sick from my family," Nurmagomedov said in comments translated by ESPN. 

"More than 20 people were lying in the ICUs. And many of them are no longer among us. Many acquaintances have died, many parents of my relatives. Everybody is having a hard time dealing with it.

"There is a lot written on the internet about my father. My father, right now, is located in a hospital. He is in critical condition as a result of this virus. 

"It impacted his heart because last year he had a surgery there, and right now, they did another surgery. He is in a very difficult situation, very difficult. We are asking Allah that he returns him to us.

"Our learned Islamic scholars are telling us, 'Stay home, and do the holiday prayer. Don't have guests. Don't go yourselves as guests.' It is a very difficult situation."

Khabib, who received messages from long-time rival Conor McGregor and UFC president Dana White last week as reports emerged of his father's health battle, was due to fight Tony Ferguson last month.

However, travel restrictions prevented that bout from happening and Ferguson was beaten by Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 on May 9.

It remains to be seen when Khabib can return to the Octagon, though White hopes to book a bout with Gaethje for September.

All Blacks star and Crusaders captain Scott Barrett re-signed with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Super Rugby side until 2023.

Barrett's recommitment to NZR runs through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it was announced on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old lock, who is one of three brothers in the All Blacks squad alongside Beauden and Jordie Barrett, has made 36 international appearances since debuting for New Zealand in 2016.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: "This is massive news for New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks.

"Scott has already made an outstanding contribution to the team since making his debut back in 2016 and we know the best is yet to come. It's really exciting for the future having him re-signed."

Barrett and the Crusaders are preparing for the start of next month's Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The Crusaders, Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders will begin a season of their own, starting June 13, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, beginning with a clash between the Highlanders and Chiefs behind closed doors in Dunedin on June 13.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he is "definitely not giving up on the season" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA was suspended indefinitely in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has wreaked havoc across the globe.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is reportedly exploring the possibility of holding the entire postseason in one location – Las Vegas, while there has been talk the competition could head straight into the playoffs.

The Lakers had played 63 of the 82-game regular season when the campaign was halted, Los Angeles boasting a Western Conference-best 49-14 record and James is eager to return.

"Definitely not giving up on the season," James said. "Not only myself and my team-mates, the Lakers organisation, we want to play.

"There's a lot of players that I know personally that want to play. And obviously, we don't ever want to jeopardise the health of any of our players or any of the players' families and so on and so on.

"This is a pandemic that we have no idea [about]. We can't control it."

"I know we all miss it," said the three-time NBA champion. "I'd be sitting here lying if I said we don't."

After a difficult first season in Los Angeles, James had returned to his brilliant best for the Lakers in 2019-20 – the veteran's performances catapulting him into the mix for a fifth MVP award.

At the time of the NBA suspending the league, James had been averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Lakers.

Sports are slowly returning following the coronavirus outbreak, with Germany's Bundesliga resuming behind closed doors over the weekend, while UFC 249 took place without fans in Jacksonville, Florida.

"We're seeing a lot of sporting events, UFC, soccer, we're hearing baseball's about to get going in a little bit," James added. "You know, I want to get back to playing. I love to play the game of basketball. I know how inspiring the game of basketball is.

"I know how inspiring sport is, itself. As soon as possible, when we can get back out there, we'd love to bring the game of basketball back to our fans."

James also revealed he started training to be an NFL player during the NBA's lockout in 2011.

"Myself and my trainer, we really started to actually train to be a football player when it came to like October and November," James said. "We started to clock our times with the 40's. We started to add a little bit more in our bench presses and things of that nature."

"The thoughts came into my mind. Never having the ability to finish my high school career playing my senior year I have dreams all the time about playing football."

LeBron James believes his "best assets work perfectly" with Michael Jordan as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar talked about playing alongside the Chicago Bulls great.

Debate in the NBA is often centred on who is the best player of all time – James or Jordan.

Jordan, 57, won six NBA championships, as many Finals MVP's and five Most Valuable Player awards during a remarkable career with the Bulls.

James has three titles to his name – two with the Miami Heat and one with the Cleveland Cavaliers – and three Finals MVP honours, while he is a four-time Most Valuable Player recipient.

Following the conclusion of ESPN's 10-part docuseries – 'The Last Dance' – focused on the Bulls team that won the 1997-98 NBA championship to complete a second three-peat in eight years, James fantasized about being Jordan's team-mate.

"Me personally the way I play the game -- team first -- I feel like my best assets work perfectly with Mike," the 35-year-old said in a video via Uninterrupted's YouTube Channel on Monday.

"Mike is an assassin. When it comes to playing the game of basketball, scoring the way he scored the ball [then] my ability to pass, my ability to read the game plays and plays and plays in advance."

James added: "I saw the things [Scottie Pippen] was able to do with Mike, I just think it would've been a whole 'nother level.

"Pip was one of my favourite players...it would've been a whole 'nother level with me being a point forward with me being that point forward alongside of him during those Chicago runs."

James also remembered taking part in Jordan's annual summer camp at UC-Santa Barbara after being drafted as the number one pick in 2003.

"We used to play around 9 p.m. The camp would end…and we would stay along with the college kids that he would invite," James said. "We would get a good-ass run in for about an hour, an hour-15. I was on the same team with MJ and we didn't lose a game."

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy insisted the winners of the coronavirus-hit 2020 competition will be worthy champions.

May 28 is set to see the return of the competition, which was postponed through two rounds on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season will be reduced to 20 rounds following the coronavirus outbreak, but Bellamy said there should be no questions over the Grand Final winners.

"I don't think so, at all. That's just my opinion and [it] doesn't make other people wrong if they think differently," Bellamy told NRL.com.

"We are going ahead with a competition – it will be there for every club for quite a few months now no matter how it's made up."

The Storm were among six teams to have won their opening two games before the league's postponement and Bellamy added: "It's not as if we've only had two rounds and then we're having finals.

"We get 20 games and that's a lot compared with other football codes. The NFL has just 16 games.

"To me, it's still a viable competition. So it doesn't matter how it's made up, although it's certainly going to be different without crowds.

"But at the end of the day, it is still a thorough enough competition and in my opinion there doesn't need to be an asterisk against it at all."

 

Ferrari test driver Marc Gene said Carlos Sainz is yet to realise he will be treated like a "demi-god" at the iconic Formula One team.

Sainz will drive for Ferrari from the 2021 F1 season after swapping McLaren to replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel next year.

The 25-year-old Spaniard, who will team up with Charles Leclerc, made his F1 debut in 2015 and finished an impressive sixth in the drivers' standings for a resurgent McLaren last year.

Discussing the planned arrival of countryman Sainz, Gene told Marca: "I've spoken to him a few times and look, he's a McLaren driver and he still has another year in front of him.

"It seems to me that there are people who think that Carlos is going to Ferrari tomorrow.

"What surprises me about him is his intelligence, because he's extremely intelligent, and he has a vision and an ability to analyse things that you'd never say at 25 years of age.

"He's living his dream because, every driver dreams of [being involved in] F1 when we grow up, but very few dream about signing for Ferrari and he told me that he's living his dream and I don't think he realises yet what he's going to experience when he wears that red suit, goes to Italy and starts to be treated like a demi-god."

"Firstly to be aware of the importance of Ferrari, of the magnitude of the team because any little remark that you make is going to have a much bigger repercussion," Gene said when asked what advice he would give Sainz.

"It's a bit like Real Madrid and Barcelona in football - everything goes further and he has to be very cautious all the time, something that Carlos already is.

"You can't just make up any comments because, in Italy, they see it as an attack on Italy itself, so you have to be careful and have a peaceful private life and, if possible, keep a low profile."

Leclerc has been tipped to be Ferrari's lead driver for the foreseeable future, but Gene said: "Let there be no doubt that it's not like that, even though Leclerc is now in his third season and he's won races.

"I can assure you that Ferrari are going to give both the same attention and the same material because we have as much confidence in Carlos as Leclerc."

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta believes the NBA season will be completed following the coronavirus crisis.

The 2019-20 NBA campaign has been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc globally – pushing the Olympic Games and Euro 2020 back a year.

At the time of postponement, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) owned the best record in the league, ahead of LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers (49-14), the Toronto Raptors (46-18) and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers (44-20).

It remains to be seen when, and if, the season will resume as NBA commissioner Adam Silver considers various options.

Fertitta met with United States president Donald Trump at the White House on Monday and when asked what would happen with basketball, the former said: "I think what they're doing is waiting to see what happens in certain states and if we're going to be able to play.

"Making sure the virus continues to go in the right direction in the next few weeks. And I think that if things are going in the way that it's going, I think the NBA, the commissioner Adam Silver, who has done an unbelievable job through this, and the 30 owners will make the decision to try to start the season up again."

After being asked by Trump if the season would be finished or not, Fertitta replied: "I think that there's talk about finishing the season playing X number of games.

"The players need to play to get paid, and right now they're taking a 25 per cent pay cut. They own 50 per cent of our revenue, unlike the other sports. And so they want that revenue, even if it's not the people-in-the-stands revenue, so they can get paid."

There has been talk that the NBA could head straight into the playoffs if the season resumes.

"I think that we would play some games just to get it going again and create interest and then go right into the playoffs," Fertitta said. "But I think it'll be great for America. We're all missing sports and everybody wants to see these great NBA teams."

New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said some players are growing more concerned about the NHL season resuming as the hiatus drags on.

The 2019-20 NHL campaign was suspended on March 12 and it remains to be seen when, and if, the season will restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 189 regular-season games remaining when the league came to a halt because of COVID-19, which has killed more than 319,200 people globally.

Schneider – an All-Star in 2016 – told reporters via a video conference call on Monday: "I think that's everyone's concern right now.

"It's a lot of guys asking is there a drop-dead date? What's the date that it's just too late, that you can get a semblance of a season or a playoff."

The league had already said teams would need about three weeks of training before playing games, which means at this point the season would not resume until mid-June at the earliest.

Mid-June is usually when the Stanley Cup champions are crowned.  

"I understand it from both sides," Schneider said. "We just have to weigh what's the most doable, what makes the most sense, even though it may not be what the players wanted or what the teams want."

Even Schneider does not know for sure what he wants. 

When the season was postponed back in March, the Devils were 28-29-12 and out of the playoff picture.

Schneider questioned whether it is really worthwhile to even come back to play a handful of meaningless games in what will likely be arenas without fans.  

The 12-year veteran, however, also sees some benefit to returning to play. If the coronavirus pandemic continues to linger and pushes back the start of the 2020-21 season, players would fall out of game-shape and get rusty during the lengthy break. 

"Is it worth it for us to spend five, six weeks to do something that ultimately won't matter?" Schneider said. "Personally, I would like to at least get out and get that feeling again. Nine or 10 months is a long time to not have played a game and not really ramp it up in that sense. My hope is that we get a chance to come back and play."

The United States Golf Association (USGA) is yet to make a decision on whether spectators will be able to attend this year's U.S. Open.

Winged Foot Golf Club will host the 2020 edition of the major in September, with the coronavirus pandemic having forced a postponement from the original June date.

However, it remains to be seen whether fans will be in attendance at the New York course.

The USGA released a statement on Monday, the same day New York governor Andrew Cuomo urged sports organisations to get things back up and running again.

"We have not made a final determination regarding whether spectators will be able to attend the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club," the USGA statement read.

"Given the realities of the pandemic, we are recreating the entire championship for everyone involved.

"We appreciate and understand everyone's questions and will provide more information as soon as possible."

The USGA also confirmed on Monday that qualifying for the U.S. Open had been cancelled.

California governor Gavin Newsom says the state could start holding sporting events without spectators in the first week of June if the current trend of declining hospitalisations and ICU patients due to COVID-19 continues. 

"Sporting events, pro sports in that first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions also can begin to move forward … if we hold these trend lines in the next number of weeks," Newsom said during a press conference on Monday. 

Newsom said California, which was the first U.S. state to issue a stay-at-home order on March 19, is allowing more counties to accelerate their re-opening process. 

However, he said not all areas are in the same position and specifically mentioned the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County – home to many professional sports teams – as ones that may not be ready to move forward just yet. 

"They can move at their own pace based upon their own local conditions," Newsom said. 

Philip Rivers signed a one-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts two months ago and has announced he already has a job lined up after he retires. 

Colts coach Frank Reich, however, believes Rivers will still be the team’s quarterback after the 2020 season. 

"I really believe it's Philip's intent to play multiple years," Reich said on a Monday conference call. "I personally believe he is more than capable of multiple years. But as far as how the actual contract gets worked out, it's the NFL, so we keep things realistic there. But I'm very optimistic it'll be a multi-year thing." 

Reich’s comments come after it was announced on May 8 that the 38-year-old Rivers would coach St Michael Catholic High School in Alabama after his retirement. 

Rivers, who spent his first 16 NFL seasons with the Chargers, contemplated retirement before agreeing to a one-year, $25 million deal with the Colts following a disappointing 2019. 

"It was a normal contract negotiation. There was push and pull on each side, a multi-year deal and this deal and trying to get numbers and everything to balance out right, and it finally just came down to what it was," Reich said.

"But I think the spirit of it was, 'Hey, we're in this together,' and as long as Philip wants to play, he wants to be here."

An eight-time Pro Bowler, Rivers, whose 59,271 passing yards and 397 passing touchdowns both rank sixth in NFL history, joins an Indianapolis team that went 7-9 in 2019 and has missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.  

Qualifying for this year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot has been cancelled, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced.

The major was originally scheduled for June but was pushed back to September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just four events remain on the USGA's 2020 calendar, but no qualification events will be held as it "was not seen as a viable option".

The field will instead be determined entirely by exemptions.

"As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships," said USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer.

"We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year. But this structure provides the best path forward for us to conduct these championships in 2020."

The tournament is due to take place between September 17-20, with exemption categories expected "in the coming weeks".

Lance Armstrong has expressed remorse towards some of those hurt while covering up his multiple drug offences but still harbours animosity towards former team-mate Floyd Landis.

Armstrong is the subject of a new ESPN documentary LANCE, where he assesses his fall from grace on the back of being handed a lifetime ban from cycling in 2012, when a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation led to him being stripped of the Tour de France victories he claimed from 1999 to 2005.

The 48-year-old cancer survivor accepts his treatment of Emma O'Reilly, the former soigneur on Armstrong's US Postal team and an early whistleblower in his case, and Italian cyclist Filippo Simeoni, who testified against Armstrong's now-disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari, was unacceptable.

However, he is unflinching when it comes to Landis – the 2006 Tour winner who was subsequently banned for doping before lifting the lid on Armstrong's regime and ultimately starting the chain of events that would bring about his downfall.

"Hey, it could be worse. I could be Floyd Landis," Armstrong told ESPN. "Waking up a piece of s*** every day. 

"That's what I know. I don't think it, I know it."

Along with prompting the USADA investigation that would conclude Armstrong and US Postal had run "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen", Landis also filed a lawsuit alleging Armstrong and the team had defrauded the federal government by taking US Postal Service sponsorship money while cheating.

Armstrong reached a $5million settlement in 2018.

"I hope he's changed and I hope he finds some peace. I don't know why people can't move on, but here we are," Landis told ESPN.

"At the time that I got hired by the Postal Service team they had already won the Tour de France three times with Armstrong. He was about as big a star as you could be at that point. That part made it easier for Armstrong to control that group of guys. He was the boss.

"Lance is a tough, hard motherf*****, but the rest of them were not. So they'll just take whatever beatings they get and smile."

Another of Armstrong's old colleagues, Tyler Hamilton, painted a similarly uncompromising picture and alleged the Texan was complicit in him being caught and banned for doping.

"In 2004 at the Dauphine I beat him in this time trial up Mont Ventoux," said Hamilton, who was riding for Phonak at the time, having accompanied Armstrong on his first three Tour victories.

"I've heard from sources that he was p***** and he called the UCI – this is what I was told – and said 'you've got to get this guy'.

"And, sure enough, they called that night. I don't know, most likely it happened.

"If I had to guess one way or the other I'd guess 'yes', [Armstrong] was something to do with me getting caught."

Armstrong does not address that allegation directly in the film, although he confirmed he wanted Tyler off the US Postal squad once he learnt of his Tour ambitions.

"You don't want that guy on your team. A guy on your team who thinks he can win the Tour? No – there's the door," he said.

Elsewhere, Armstrong suggested he was probably party to favourable treatment from the late UCI president Hein Verbruggen.

During the 1999 Tour, in the aftermath of the Festina doping scandals, Armstrong returned a positive cortisone test, which was covered up by a backdated prescription for saddle soreness that his team provided.

"If the question is 'how much did you have Hein Verbruggen in your pocket?' there's a lot of different ways to answer that," he said. "Financially… zero.

"He's no longer with us to answer this question himself but do I believe that Hein wanted to protect the sport? Yes. Protect me? Yes.

"He was coming off the heels of Festina. The world is following the story of this cancer survivor and then bam, a headline, cortisone found in his urine sample. 

"That type of cortisone was available a lot of different ways. You could inject it, you could have eyedrops, you could have a nasal spray, or you could have a cream.

"He's using the cream for saddle sores. And so Hein just [Armstrong claps hands, rubs them together]... It's like, that's it."

*** LANCE is available on ESPN Player throughout the UK, Europe and Africa from May 25th***

When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 2019 season ended with elbow surgery, he vowed not to trim his beard or cut his hair until he had fully recovered.  

On Monday, he shared a video proving he had earned his grooming.  

Roethlisberger posted a clip to Twitter showing himself throwing to team-mates, indicating the 38-year-old has made a full recovery from the operation that ended his season in 2019.  

The video begins with Roethlisberger explaining his promise to himself last year. 

"I'm not going to shave or cut my hair until I can throw a football again … throw it to one of my team-mates, like a legit NFL pass," he said.  

Roethlisberger is then shown firing passes at Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania to wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer, along with running back James Conner.  

The video ends with Roethlisberger's hair cut and Smith-Schuster looking directly at the camera to declare: "He's back." 

The Steelers managed an 8-8 record last season despite a series of injuries to key contributors, especially on offense.  

Roethlisberger injured his throwing elbow in Week 2 in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while Conner missed six games and Smith-Schuster sat for four games.  

Mason Rudolph was Roethlisberger's primary replacement at quarterback, playing 10 games, but undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges made six starts, including in each of the season's last five games.  

Roethlisberger, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, has led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances and two titles in his 16 seasons with the team.  

He has a career 94.0 passer rating and is Pittsburgh's all-time passing leader with 56,545 yards and 363 touchdowns.   

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