18th of January 2013 Author: Johnny Karp
Lance Armstrong has admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins. The 41-year-old former cyclist confessed during his interview with TV show host Oprah Winfrey in front of a worldwide television audience. "I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times," he said. "I made those decisions, they were my mistake and I'm here to say sorry." However the American denied it was "sport's biggest doping programme", saying "it was smart, but it was conservative, risk averse".
In response the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) called for Armstrong to detail "under oath" the full extent of his doping and give the names of the people who helped him use illegal substances. Last year Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles last year after being labelled a "serial cheat" by Usada.
The case against Armstrong
The achievements of USPS/Discovery Channel pro cycling team, of which Armstrong was part of, were, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), accomplished through the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen. The rider decided not to contest the charges, saying last year he was tired of fighting the allegations. He had always strongly denied doping.
In the opening of the interview Winfrey, one of America's top chat show hosts, demanded yes or no answers. And the answers were mostly "yes":
"Did you ever take banned substances to enhance cycling performance?"
"Was one of those substances EPO?"
"Did you use any other banned substances?"
Armstrong then admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs Erythropoietin (EPO), testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone as well as having blood transfusions. He added: "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 such a big race as the Tour, he 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."
Then Winfrey asked: "Did it feel wrong? Armstrong replied: "No. Scary."
"Did you feel bad?"
"No. Even scarier."
"Did you feel that you were cheating?"
"No. The scariest." 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."
Armstrong also revealed 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 admitted 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.
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