Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Sports

Lance Armstrong repeatedly admits to Oprah he took banned substances

For those who expected talk show queen Oprah Winfrey to delay or draw out the most important questions in her blockbuster interview Thursday with disgraced cycling star Lance Armstrong, the queen of all media surprised many by getting right down to business.

Right at the start, she asked him if he had taken banned substances.

"Yes," Armstrong said.

Was one of those EPO? "Yes."

Did he do blood doping and use transfusions? "Yes."

Did he use testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone? "Yes."

Did he take banned substances or blood dope in all seven of his Tour de France wins? "Yes."

Armstrong also admitted that he was lying over the many years he excoriated those who accused him of cheating, insulted former friends and teammates who came forward with stories and even sued people who tried to tell the truth about his actions.

But one answer he couldn't provide so easily: Why was he talking now, in a highly publicized interview broadcast on Winfrey's OWN cable network, months after the world already figured he had been lying about the whole thing?

"I don't know that I have a great answer," Armstrong told Winfrey in the interview recorded Monday in an Austin, Texas, hotel. The first 90 minutes aired Thursday, with a second part scheduled to air at 9 tonight.

"This (admission) is too late," he added. "And that's my fault. I view this situation as one big lie, that I repeated a lot of times."

But even though Armstrong admitted lying about the use of banned substances, he also insisted most every other competitive rider used the same techniques, saying there was a "level playing field."

He also declined to speak about others' possible contribution to his team's system of sneaking the treatments to riders, called one of the most sophisticated systems in the all of sports by one USADA official.

While he admitted behaving as a bully — blaming his fight with testicular cancer for forging a win at all costs philosophy — Armstrong also denied leading a culture of intimidation to push other cyclists into cheating, despite such claims made by former teammates for years.

"I'm not the most believable guy in the world right now," said the former star, while insisting that some of the tales told about him by critics were not true. "Yeah I was a bully. . . . If I didn't like what somebody said . . . I tried to control that by saying they're a liar."

Winfrey, though prepared with clips of former teammates, critics accusations and mountains of research, seemed a bit unprepared to press Armstrong on the details on his transgressions.

Instead, the woman known for making some celebrities cry on camera — though Armstrong didn't break into sobs in Thursday's portion of the interview as rumored — pressed Armstrong on more personal stuff.

Why did he call the wife of a former teammate who said Armstrong revealed his cheating to doctors during cancer treatments "crazy" and a "b----"? Or sue other people who made truthful allegations of cheating?

"Fame just magnifies who we really are," Winfrey noted at one point, saying such power and wealth can either make someone a bigger jerk or a humanitarian, depending on their outlook. The implication to Armstrong: Weren't you just acting like the jerk you always were?

"I don't know if you pulled those two words out of thin air: jerk and humanitarian. I'd say I was both," Armstrong added, looking at a clip of himself during a court deposition. "I look at that and say 'look at that arrogant p----."

Armstrong also seemed to angle toward limiting his future liability, denying he forced anyone to cheat or had anything to do with getting the U.S. Justice Department to drop its prosecution of him. He denied allegations aired on Showtime's 60 Minutes Sports that he bought off the International Cycling Union with a $100,000 donation, saying the group asked him for the money.

He also insisted that his Tour de France competitions in 2009 and 2010, when he tried to come back to the sport and failed to win, were completed without blood doping and banned substances.

It remains to be seen if Winfrey will pry more details from Armstrong in tonight's interview portions, or if the public will continue to care.

For those who wanted to see Armstrong admit he lied for years about blood doping, Thursday's interview delivered.

But in stopping short of full contrition, he also ensured the tough questions will keep coming from others.

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