“That’s like saying. ‘We have to have air in our tires or water in our bottles,’ ” Armstrong told Winfrey when asked if he felt that in order to keep winning, he had to keep doping. “That was, in my view, part of the job.”
The interview, taped Monday in an Austin hotel and billed as “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive,” concludes Friday night.
Winfrey opened the program by simply asking for “Yes” or “No” questions. And Armstrong, seated in an upholstered chair across from her in a navy blazer and light blue shirt, ticked off one affirmation after another. He had used EPO, blood doping, transfusions, testosterone and human growth hormone in one cocktail or another to elevate his strength and endurance for each Tour win from 1999 to 2005.
At the time, Armstrong said, he didn’t view it as wrong. Nor did he fear getting caught, given the fact that the sport didn’t test athletes during the off-season and his own wiles about following a schedule that ensured no trace of the substances would be in his system during races themselves.
As accusations mounted that he was cheating, Armstrong even looked up the word “cheat” in the dictionary and decided it didn’t apply, given that it meant “to gain an advantage on a rival or foe.”
“I didn’t view [doping] that way,” he said. “I viewed it as a level playing field.”
Today, having been stripped of every cycling achievement since 1998, including an Olympic bronze medal, losing his seat on the board of the Livestrong Foundation he started to help those facing a cancer diagnosis and losing his lucrative corporate sponsorships, Armstrong said he understands that not only what he did was wrong, but that he was a bully in the way he went about his career and protecting the lies and the myth it was cloaked in.
Asked why he was confessing now, Armstrong said: “I will start saying this is too late. It’s too late probably for most people. And that’s my fault. I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times.”
If it was a first step on Armstrong’s road to redemption after being stripped of his seven Tour de France title and banned from competition for life, it was a baby step. And he may not cover that road in a lifetime of apologies.
While the American public may forgive Armstrong, news that the disgraced champion had chosen Winfrey’s program as the setting for his confession after more than a decade of vehement denial was met with ridicule overseas, characterized in the British media as “a tawdry publicity stunt.”