DALLAS (CN) – Acknowledging that he acted like a “jerk” and “an arrogant prick” with a “ruthless desire to win,” Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey that he used banned substances during all seven consecutive victories at the Tour de France.
In the highly anticipated Thursday night broadcast, Armstrong admitted that his long-held version of coming back cleanly from testicular cancer to become the world’s dominant cyclist was “one big lie.”
Armstrong, 41, of Austin, confessed to using erythropoietin (EPO), a red blood cell producer, testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions in all of his Tour de France wins.
The admission came after years of vehement denials from Armstrong. He responded to the allegations by “bullying” and suing his critics, including author David Walsh, former U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team masseuse Emma O’Reilly and Betsy Andreu, wife of former teammate Frankie Andre.
“You are suing people and you know they are telling the truth,” Winfrey said. “What is that?”
Armstrong blamed his behavior on a “ruthless desire to win,” to “win at all costs,” an attitude that served him well as a cyclist and against cancer.
“It’s a major flaw and it is a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome,” Armstrong said. “And it is inexcusable.”
“When I say that there are people who will hear this and will never forgive me, I understand that … I do … I will speak to people directly and say ‘I am sorry.'”
The interview was recorded Monday in an Austin hotel. The second half of it will be broadcast tonight (Friday).
It was Armstrong’s first interview since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a 1,000-page “reasoned decision” in October, detailing what it called the most sophisticated doping program in the history of sports.
The Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling’s governing body, then stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport for life.
He lost most of his sponsors and resigned from his Livestrong charity, which has raised nearly half a billion dollars for cancer research.
The reasoned decision accused Armstrong of lying under oath when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
In 2004, Armstrong and Tailwind Sports sued Dallas-based SCA Promotions in Dallas County Court, claiming SCA refused to pay $5 million in sponsorship bonuses that were triggered when he won the Tour.
Armstrong took SCA to arbitration in 2005 and won, as he had been named the official winner of the Tour.
SCA had to pay $7.5 million: the $5 million bonus, plus interest and legal fees.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong testified under oath in 2006 that “he never violated the rules of the UCI or the Tour de France in connection with the Tour de France in 2001, 2002, 2003 or 2004” and that he “had never taken any performance enhancing drug in connection with his cycling career.”
Armstrong also denied under oath that team doctor Michele Ferrari encouraged him to use banned drugs. When asked by Winfrey if that would be his response today, Armstrong said no.
“No … but my responses on most of these things are going to be different today,” Armstrong said. “That defiance, that attitude, that arrogance, you cannot deny it. You watch that clip [of sworn testimony], that’s an arrogant person. I look at that and I say, ‘Look at this arrogant prick.'”
In another clip of deposition testimony from November 2005, Armstrong is shown denying Ms. Andreu’s allegations that she overheard Armstrong “rattling off” a list of performance-enhancing drugs he had used to a doctor while “hanging onto his IV” in an Indiana hospital during his cancer treatment in 1996.
“How could it have taken place when I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs? How could it have happened?” Armstrong said under oath. “How many times do I have to say it? If I can’t be clearer that I have never taken drugs, then incidents like that could never have happened.”
Winfrey asked if Andreu was lying, and Armstrong refused to answer. He said he had reached out and spoken to her and her husband on the telephone for 40 minutes.
“Is it well between the two of you, have you made peace?” Winfrey asked.
“No!” Armstrong said incredulously. “Because they have been hurt too badly. A 40-minute conversation isn’t enough.”
Winfrey agreed: “Yes, because you repeatedly characterized her as crazy, called her other horrible things.”
When asked what influence fame had on magnifying his personality, Armstrong said his actions and his defiance magnified him as both a “jerk” and a humanitarian.
“I was both, and we saw both, and now we’re seeing more of the jerk part than the activist, the humanitarian, the philanthropist, the leader of the foundation,” Armstrong said. “We are seeing that now. I am flawed. Deeply flawed. I think we all have our flaws.”
Armstrong is believed to be coming clean at last because he wants his lifetime ban to be lifted, so he can compete again in off-road bicycle races and other athletic events.
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