Cyclist Lance Armstrong has ended years of denials by admitting to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins.
The 41-year-old confessed: “I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times.”
“I made those decisions, they were my mistake and I’m here to say sorry.”
However, Lance armstrong denied it was “sport’s biggest doping programme”, saying “it was smart, but it was conservative, risk averse”.
The interview with Oprah Winfrey was broadcast on prime time television on her OWN network in the US, and was streamed worldwide through her website.
The tens of millions viewers saw Lance Armstrong reveal:
- he took performance-enhancing drugs in each of his Tour wins from 1999-2005
- doping was “part of the process required to win the Tour”
- he did not feel he was cheating at the time and viewed it as a “level playing field”
- he did not fear getting caught
- “all the fault and blame” should lie with him
- he was a bully who “turned on” people he did not like
- his cancer fight in the mid-1990s gave him a “win-at-all costs” attitude
- he would now co-operate with official inquiries into doping in cycling
In response the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called for Armstrong to detail “under oath” the full extent of his doping.
Cycling’s governing body the UCI welcomed Armstrong’s decision “to come clean and confess”, and said the interview had confirmed it was not part of a “collusion or conspiracy”.
Last year Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles after being labelled a “serial cheat” by Usada.
In a detailed report, the body said he led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen”.
Lance Armstrong decided not to contest the charges, saying last year he was tired of fighting the allegations. He had always strongly denied doping.
That all changed within seconds of an explosive opening to the interview when Oprah Winfrey demanded yes or no answers.
“Did you ever take banned substances to enhance cycling performance?”
“Was one of those substances EPO?”
“Did you use any other banned substances?”
Lance Armstrong then admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs Erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone as well as having blood transfusions.
He continued: “All the fault and blame is on me and a lot of that is momentum and I lost myself in all that. I couldn’t handle it. The story is so bad and toxic and a lot of it is true.”
Asked if doping was part of the process required to win the Tour, Lance Armstrong said: “That’s like saying we have to have air in our tyres or water in our bottles. It was part of the job.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, but that was my view and I made those decisions.”
In a key exchange Oprah Winfrey asked: “Did it feel wrong?”
Lance Armstrong replied: “No. Scary.”
“Did you feel bad?”
“No. Even scarier.”
“Did you feel that you were cheating?”
“No. The scariest.”
Lance Armstrong has ended years of denials by admitting to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins
Lance Armstrong continued: “The definition of a cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field. I didn’t understand the magnitude of that. The important thing is that I’m beginning to understand it.
“I see the anger in people, betrayal. It’s all there. People who believed in me and supported me and they have every right to feel betrayed and it’s my fault and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people.”
On whether it was the biggest doping programme in sport he said: “I didn’t have access to anything that anybody else didn’t.
“Winning races mattered for me but to say that programme was bigger than the East German doping programme of 70s and 80s is wrong.”
Lance Armstrong said his battle with cancer in the mid-1990s turned him into a “fighter”.
“Before my diagnosis I was a competitor but not a fierce competitor,” he said.
“I took that ruthless win-at-all-costs attitude into cycling which was bad.”
Lance Armstrong denied riders had to comply to a doping programme to compete for his US Postal Service/Discovery Channel team, but admitted his personality could imply that.
He said: “Yes, I was a bully. I was a bully in the sense that I tried to control the narrative and if I didn’t like what someone said I turned on them.
“We felt like we had our backs against the wall and I was a fighter.”
Lance Armstrong said he had not been afraid of getting caught.
“Testing has evolved. Back then they didn’t come to your house and there was no testing out of competition and for most of my career there wasn’t that much out-of-competition testing so you’re not going to get caught because you clean up for the races.
“I didn’t fail a test. Retrospectively, I failed one. The hundreds of tests I took I passed them.”
However, he did admit that he received a back-dated therapeutic user exemption certificate for a cream containing steroids at the 1999 Tour to ensure he did not test positive.
Lance Armstrong retired from cycling in 2005 but returned to the sport between 2009 and 2012.
He told Oprah Winfrey that he did not use drugs after his return to the sport.
“That’s the only thing in that whole USADA report that really upset me,” he said.
Lance Armstrong said he regretted his return, and was asked if he would have “got away with it” if he had not come back.
“Impossible to say,” he replied, but added his “chances would have been better”.
However, he conceded that when he discovered George Hincapie, who was the only man to ride in the same team as Lance Armstrong for each of his seven Tour wins, had given evidence against him last year, he knew his “fate was sealed”.
“George is the most credible voice in all of this,” Lance Armstrong added.
“He did all seven Tours. We’re still great friends. I don’t fault George Hincapie, but George knows this story better than anybody.”
Lance Armstrong said he would now co-operate with USADA.
“I love cycling and I say that knowing that people see me as someone who disrespected the sport, the colour yellow,” he said.
“If there was a truth and reconciliation commission – and I can’t call for that – and I’m invited I’ll be first man through the door.”
He went on to say that he wished he had complied with the USADA investigation.
“I’d do anything to go back to that day,” he said.
“I wouldn’t fight, I wouldn’t sue them, I’d listen. I’d do a couple of things first.
“I’d say give me three days. Let me call my family, my mother, sponsors, [the Lance Armstrong Livestrong] foundation and I wish I could do that but I can’t.”
Asked if his former doctor Michele Ferrari, who was banned for life by USADA after being found guilty of numerous anti-doping violations, was the “mastermind”, Lance Armstrong said: “No. I’m not comfortable talking about other people.
“I viewed Dr. Michele Ferrari as a good man and I still do.”
He said he regretted “going on the attack” against masseuse Emma O’Reilly, who was an early whistleblower.
“She is one of these people that I have to apologise to,” he said.
“She’s one of these people who got run over, got bullied.”
He denied making a $100,000 donation in 2005 to the UCI, to cover up a failed drugs test.
“It was not in exchange for help,” he said.
“They called. They didn’t have a lot of money. I did. They asked if I would make a donation so I did.
“That story [of a cover up] isn’t true. There was no positive test. There was no paying off of the lab. There was no secret meeting with the lab director. I’m no fan of the UCI. That did not happen.”
However, Lance Armstrong refused to answer questions regarding allegations made by former team-mate Frankie Andreu, who admitted in 2006 to taking EPO before the 1999 Tour – Armstrong’s first victory – and his wife Betsy,
The duo testified in 2006 that they heard Lance Armstrong tell a cancer doctor that he had doped with EPO in 1996. Armstrong swore, under oath, that it did not happen.
Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey that he had a 40-minute telephone conversation with the Andreus but he was not prepared to reveal what was said.
Oprah Winfrey has revealed Lance Armstrong “did not come clean in the way I expected” about claims he used performance-enhancing drugs.
The chat host did not go into details of their lengthy interview but said she had been “satisfied” with Lance Armstrong’s answers.
The questions “people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered”, Oprah winfrey told CBS news.
Lance Armstrong, 41, who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, has thus far vehemently denied dope allegations.
But rumors have been circulating for some time that Lance Armstrong wants to come clean in order to return to professional sport.
Lance Armstrong was accused last year by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) of what it called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme” the sport had ever seen.
He is now said to be discussing whether to testify against sport officials.
Oprah Winfrey told CBS that the two-and-a-half hour interview in Lance Armstrong’s home town of Austin, Texas, would be broadcast over two nights, starting on Thursday.
She said she had taken 112 questions into her interview with him, most of which she got to ask.
Lance Armstrong was “serious and thoughtful”, had prepared well for the interview, and “met the moment”, she said.
“At the end of it… we both were pretty exhausted. And I would say I was satisfied,” she said.
“I would say he did not come clean in the manner that I expected,” she said in response to a question.
“It was surprising to me. I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers.”
“I didn’t get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered,” Oprah Winfrey said.
She would leave it to others to decide whether he was contrite, she went on to say.
Oprah Winfrey has revealed Lance Armstrong did not come clean in the way she expected” about claims he used performance-enhancing drugs
Oprah Winfrey told CBS that she had agreed with Lance Armstrong and his team that they would not talk about what had been said until the broadcast, but rumors of a confession quickly began circulating in the US media.
“By the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it. So I’m like – how did you all do that? We all agreed that we weren’t going to say anything,” she said.
“I’m sitting here now because it’s already been confirmed.”
When asked why Lance Armstrong had agreed to the interview, Oprah Winfrey said: “I think he was just ready.”
The interview was recorded just hours after Lance Armstrong apologized to staff at the Livestrong Foundation but stopped short of a full admission of guilt.
Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, lost most of his sponsorships and was forced to leave Livestrong after the damning USADA report.
Admitting doping might be a first step into trying to mitigate his lifetime ban from competition. Lance Armstrong is also said to be planning to testify against powerful individuals in the world of cycling – though not other cyclists – he will claim knew about or facilitated the doping, sources said.
But an admission of guilt would raise legal issues as well as further backlash from the cycling world and cancer community, in which Lance Armstrong is a prominent figure as a cancer survivor.
The New York Times has reported Lance Armstrong’s supporters are concerned he could face perjury charges if he confesses to using performance-enhancing drugs, because he testified in a 2005 court case that he had never done so.
Former teammate Floyd Landis – who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping – has filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit accusing Armstrong of defrauding the US Postal Service, which sponsored the team to the tune of more than $30 million.
The US Department of Justice is considering whether to join the lawsuit against him, reports say, and Lance Armstrong’s lawyers are said to be in negotiations to settle the suit.
The UK’s Sunday Times is already suing Lance Armstrong for up to $1.6 million over a libel payment to him in 2004 after the newspaper alleged he had cheated.
And a Texan insurance company is pursuing Lance Armstrong for $11 million over insured performance bonuses paid to the American after he claimed his fourth, fifth and sixth Tour de France victories.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong’s team ran “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme the sport has ever seen” according to a report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
USADA says it will deliver the full report in the doping case against Lance Armstrong, 41, later on Wednesday.
It contains testimony from 11 of his former US Postal Service team-mates.
Lance Armstrong has always denied doping allegations but has not contested USADA’s charges.
USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart said there was “conclusive and undeniable proof” of a team-run doping conspiracy.
The organisation will send a “reasoned decision” in the Armstrong case to the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the World Triathlon Corporation.
The UCI now has 21 days to lodge an appeal against USADA’s decision with WADA or they must comply with the decision to strip Armstrong, who now competes in triathlons, of his seven Tour de France titles and hand him a lifetime ban.
Lance Armstrong ran the most sophisticated doping program in cycling history
Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer to return to professional cycling, won the Tour from 1999 to 2005. He retired in 2005 but returned in 2009 before retiring for good two years later.
In his statement, Travis T. Tygart said the evidence against Lance Armstrong and his team – which is in excess of 1,000 pages – was “overwhelming” and “and includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team and its participants’ doping activities”.
Travis T. Tygart revealed it contains “direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding”.
He also claimed the team’s doping conspiracy “was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices”.
Among the former team-mates of Lance Armstrong’s to testify were George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for failing a dope test and was recently found guilty in a Swiss court of defaming the International Cycling Union for alleging they had protected Lance Armstrong from doping claims.
Travis T. Tygart said: “The riders who participated in the USPS Team doping conspiracy and truthfully assisted have been courageous in making the choice to stop perpetuating the sporting fraud, and they have suffered greatly.
“I have personally talked with and heard these athletes’ stories and firmly believe that, collectively, these athletes, if forgiven and embraced, have a chance to leave a legacy far greater for the good of the sport than anything they ever did on a bike.
“Lance Armstrong was given the same opportunity to come forward and be part of the solution. He rejected it.
“Instead he exercised his legal right not to contest the evidence and knowingly accepted the imposition of a ban from recognised competition for life and disqualification of his competitive results from 1998 forward.”
USADA confirmed that two other members of the US Postal Service team, Dr. Michele Ferrari and Dr. Garcia del Moral, also received lifetime bans for their part in the doping conspiracy.
Three further members, team director Johan Bruyneel, a team doctor Dr. Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose Marti, have chosen to contest the charges and take their cases to arbitration.
Travis T. Tygart also called on the UCI to “act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful Truth and Reconciliation programme”.
“Hopefully, the sport can unshackle itself from the past, and once and for all continue to move forward to a better future,” he added.