'One big lie': Lance Armstrong admits to doping in Oprah interview
Published Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:16PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 11:20PM EST
Lance Armstrong spent years denying he’d ever used performance-enhancing drugs in his legendary cycling career, throwing insults and lawsuits at those who told the truth.
Sitting across from Oprah Winfrey, the disgraced athlete finally admitted he was a liar and a “bully” who used banned substances to win seven Tour de France titles and swindle millions of admirers around the world.
Winfrey wasted no time in securing Armstrong’s confession in a pre-taped interview that aired on her network Thursday night. As soon as the cameras began rolling, she asked him a series of quick questions, asking only for a “yes” or “no” answer.
Winfrey asked if Armstrong ever resorted to performance enhancers, blood doping, testosterone and cortisone.
He answered “yes” to all of the above.
In the highly-anticipated and wide-ranging interview, the second part of which will air Friday night, Armstrong confessed to lying and cheating for years as he amassed prizes and accolades, but was sometimes vague and refused to implicate others.
He denied doping after 2005 – the year he won his last Tour de France – despite laboratory findings that suggested otherwise. He said he was angered by allegations that he doped after his 2009 comeback and suggested that he might not have been caught if he’d stuck with his retirement plans in 2005.
Asked why he was coming clean now, after years of staunch denials, Armstrong replied: “That’s the best question, the most logical question.”
“I don’t know that I have a great answer. It’s too late for probably most people and that’s my fault,” he said.
“I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot.”
“This story was so perfect for so long.”
Armstrong was stripped of all Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said last October that he ran one of the most sophisticated doping schemes officials had ever seen. The agency’s report included testimony from a number of Armstrong’s former teammates.
Armstrong was banned for life from competing in sanctioned events as most sponsors walked away from him. He also left Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded in 1997 after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Armstrong said he began using cortisone early in his career and then moved on to EPO, or the hormone erythropoietin, in the mid-1990s.
The cancer diagnosis made Armstrong feel like he had to win at all costs, he said, and he was willing to do whatever it took to be the first to cross the finish line.
As he led his team of cyclists on multiple Tour de France victories, Armstrong said doping became part of a routine – like saying “we need air in our tires,” or “we need water in our bottles.”
While he denied ever giving direct orders to his teammates to use banned substances, Armstrong acknowledged that as the head of the team, he was “leading by example” and understood why some other cyclists felt pressured to dope.
“We all made our choices. There were people on the team that chose not to,” he said, later adding: “I’m not the most believable guy in the world, I understand that.”
Despite his regular use of banned substances, Armstrong said he didn’t fear getting caught.
When Winfrey asked if doping felt wrong at the time, Armstrong said it didn’t.
“Scary,” he said.
“Did you feel bad about it?” Winfrey asked.
“No,” he replied. “Even scarier.”
“Scariest,” he said, was the fact that he didn’t even feel like he was cheating.
Armstrong said doping made him happy as he prepared for Tour de France competitions, but “the winning was more phoned-in.”
He said he didn’t believe it was humanly possible for him to win all seven Tours without performance enhancing drugs.
He also admitted to bullying those around him, especially when they tried to challenge his victories.
“Yeah I was a bully,” he told Winfrey, adding that he always tried to “control the narrative.”
Armstrong said he’s reached out to some people who went public with the doping scheme in the past, including a former team masseuse, Emma O’Reilly.
Armstrong had called her a liar, a prostitute and an alcoholic when she revealed that a doctor had backdated a cortisone prescription to cover up the cyclist’s use of the steroid hormone.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people,” he said.