Shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong, shorn of cycling’s greatest prizes and expelled from sport, wants to compete again and doesn’t believe he deserved the “death penalty” of a life ban.
“Hell yes, I’m a competitor,” Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey when asked in the second instalment of their televised interview aired on Friday if he wanted to compete again.
“It’s what I’ve done my whole life. I love to train. I love to race. I love to toe the line,” said the 41-year-old Texan. “Not the Tour de France, but there’s a lot of other things I could do.
“I made my bed,” he said. “But if there was ever a window, would I like to run the Chicago Marathon when I’m 50? I would love to do that.”
In the opening segment of the interview shown Thursday, Armstrong confessed that his record seven Tour de France titles were fueled by drugs, confirming much of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s findings about his use of blood-boosting EPO, blood transfusions, cortisone, testosterone and human growth hormone.
When Winfrey noted that virtually every article on the once revered cyclist now begins with the word “disgraced” Armstrong said he felt it fit.
“But I also feel humbled. I feel ashamed. This is ugly stuff,” said Armstrong, whose critics point not only to his cheating but to his vitriolic attacks on those who questioned him.
“I’m deeply sorry for what I did,” Armstrong said. “I can say that thousands of times and it may never be enough to get back.”
Even so, Armstrong said he believes he should have a chance to return to competition. “I don’t expect it to happen,” he acknowledged.
“Frankly, this may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it,” he said, telling Winfrey that former team-mates who implicated themselves in testifying against him received lesser punishments.
“I deserve to be punished,” Armstrong said. “I’m not sure that I deserve a death penalty.”
Thursday’s first instalment of the interview was a ratings winner for Winfrey, with its estimated 3.2 million viewers in the United States making it the second-most-watched show ever on her fledgling OWN network.
However, it left many still sceptical of Armstrong’s motives and methods, doubtful that he felt real remorse.
Genuine emotion seeped through on Friday. Armstrong’s eyes reddened and his voice cracked as he described telling his 13-year-old son Luke: “Don’t defend me anymore” when his transgressions at last caught up with him.
“When this all really started, I saw my son defending me and saying, ‘That’s not true. What you’re saying about my dad is not true.’
“That’s when I knew I had to tell him,” Armstrong said. “And he’d never asked me. He’d never said, ‘Dad, is this true?’ He trusted me.”
Armstrong recalled the days in October, after USADA released the report documenting its case against him, that led to his stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer charity he founded and then leaving the board entirely.
“I wouldn’t at all say forced out,” Armstrong said. “I was aware of the pressure.
“It was the best thing for the organisation but it hurt like hell... That was the lowest.”
He discussed the financial fallout, in particular the stampede of sponsors away from him with sportswear giant Nike in the lead.
“You could look at the day or those two days or the day and a half where people left,” he said. “That was a US$75 million day.”
Armstrong again denied that he used drugs in his comeback from retirement in 2009 and 2010, saying he’d promised his ex-wife Kristin that he would “never cross that line again.”
He also denied USADA chief Travis Tygart’s assertion in a “60 Minutes Sports” interview last week that someone in Armstrong’s camp offered the agency a $250,000 donation in what could be seen as an attempt at a pay-off.
“That’s not true,” Armstrong said, noting that it wasn’t in USADA’s official case against him.
“Everything was in there,” Armstrong said. “Why wasn’t that in there? Oprah, it’s not true.”
But the cheating, the lying, the bullying -- all true, and Armstrong said the “ultimate betrayal” was of the people who believed in him.
“I do not know the outcome here,” he said when asked about the future. “And I’m getting comfortable with that.”
Topics: Cycling Lance Armstrong Doping