Lance Armstrong, after more than a decade of facing numerous lawsuits and making even more heated denials, has officially acknowledged that he was using performance enhancing drugs during his record-breaking seven Tour de France victories.
During a much anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, the now disgraced cyclist admitted to using testosterone, EPO, human growth hormones, and other banned substances over the course of his career.
In the interview, Armstrong did still challenge a few of the charges that had been levied against him in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that had rocked the sport’s world when it was released in October. Though, officials are unlikely to be persuaded to rescind his current lifetime ban from all competitive sports.
Armstrong Stopped Doping in 2005
The cyclist went on to deny all allegations that he was some sort of drug kingpin, and also stated that he had been clean when he competed in 2009 and 2010 after he discontinued doping in 2005. During the interview, Lance made himself out to be just another rider who had succumbed to the pressures to use performance enhancing drugs in order to stay competitive in his reportedly “drug-soaked” sport.
During the interview, he stated, “I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture, and that’s my mistake, and that’s what I have to be sorry for, and that’s what something and the sport is now paying the price because of that. So I am sorry for that. I don’t think — I didn’t have access to anything else that nobody else did.”
The Betsy Andreu Testimonial
When Winfrey asked him about the testimonial that Betsy Andreu, the spouse of his former teammate Frankie Andreu, had given in a 2006 deposition, Lance Armstrong lost some of his reserve and became a little emotional. Betsy’s testimony had made serious news as she had claimed to overhear him discussing his usage of performance-enhancing drugs with his doctors when he was being treated for cancer.
After Oprah asked him about it, Lance said, “I’m going to lay down on that one.” He went on to say that the Andreus were among the people who he had contacted this week in order to personally apologize for a decade full of bullying and intimidating critics.
Lance Denies Claims Made by USADA
Armstrong also denied the USADA’s claims that he was behind one of the most sophisticated doping rings in sports history. He told Oprah that the U.S. team’s usage was nothing compared to the steroid program employed by the East Germans in the 1970’s. He also stated that he never sacked anyone because they had refused to take banned performance substances. Lance said, “The idea that anyone was forced or pressured or encouraged — that is not true.”
The anti-doping rules that are in place give officials the ability to reduce the penalties placed on athletes who have displayed some level of remorse for their actions and have offered their full cooperation moving forward. Lance would like to once again be able to compete in the triathlons and other competitions that are sanctioned by organizations who uphold the World Anti-Doping Code, but he still has a big hill to climb.
The Conflict with the USADA
“Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit,” claimed USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart. “His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.”
Lance has stated that he hasn’t doped since 2004, and that he was clean during his storied comeback victories in 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately, his statement stands in direct contrast to the USADA report which maintains that the blood samples obtained from the champion cyclist during these years would suggest that he was still taking performance-enhancing drugs.
An Official Statement from Livestrong
Spokesman from Lance’s cancer charity, Livestrong, issued an official statement shortly after the interview with Oprah was aired: “We at the LIVESTRONG Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us.”
Lance still claims that he never felt like he was cheating during the time in his career when he was taking banned substances. Lance went on to say, “I had this exercise because I kept hearing I’m a drug cheat. I’m a cheat. I’m a cheater, and I went in and just looked up the definition of cheat. . . . And the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don’t have. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”