Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Studios, Inc/George Burns)
"People have every right to feel betrayed," disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey, "and it's my fault."
Yes, Armstrong doped. Yes, in every way possible. Yes, he lied about it for years on end.
Oprah Winfrey's much-anticipated interview with Lance Armstrong got the big questions answered right away. Winfrey kicked off the special two-night edition of "Oprah's Next Chapter" on Thursday night with a series of yes-or-no questions for the seven-time Tour de France winner, now stripped of his titles. Did he take banned substances? Performance-enhancing drug EPO? Did he get blood transfusions? Take testosterone or HGH?
Armstrong gave a crisp "yes" each time -- until Winfrey asked if, in his opinion, it was possible to win seven straight Tours without supplementing with banned substances. That question got a no.
Overall, Armstrong seemed forthright, and almost eager to take responsibility for his actions. He admitted that he started a doping regime in the mid-1990s, and called the results – his domination of the sport of cycling – "one big lie that I repeated a lot of times." (He did claim that 2005 was the last time he "crossed that line," and that he raced clean in his comeback Tours in 2009 and 2010.) While Armstrong did refer to a "culture" of doping and alleged that, out of 200 cyclists in the Tour de Frances, maybe five were not doping, he repeated several times that "all the fault and all the blame here falls on me" and called himself a "flawed character."
And after years of categorical denials that he took any performance enhancers – not to mention lawsuits against those who claimed he had – Armstrong said, "I'm out of the business of calling somebody a liar."
Winfrey confronted Armstrong with a long list of specifics – including lies he'd told under oath, and teammates he'd thrown under the bus – and pressured him to explain how he'd gotten to this point (he blamed a "ruthless" desire to win "at all costs," especially after his fight against testicular cancer), and whether he always knew he'd get caught. (He didn't think he would, but "testing has evolved.") She also got him to admit that he was a bully whose example may have pressured others on his USPS cycling team to go along with the doping culture, and that at the time, doping didn't feel wrong to him, or like cheating.
Other notable moments from the interview:
- Armstrong called the few cyclists who didn't do any doping "heroes."
-One of his team's code words for EPO, the performance-enhancing drug Erythropeoietin, was "Edgar Allan Poe."
- If he hadn't mounted his comeback in 2008, "we wouldn't be sitting here," Armstrong asserted. And when the Department of Justice dropped their investigation last year without comment, he thought he was "out of the woods" permanently.
- He'd love to help clean up the sport – if he's invited to do, but he acknowledges that "it's certainly not my place to say, 'Hey guys, let's clean up cycling!'"
The second part of the interview airs Friday night at 9 PM on OWN.
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