Banned Armstrong tells Oprah he finally cracked after he saw his son defending him

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Lance Armstrong said he finally cracked after he saw his son defending him against allegations from anti-doping authorities.
Authorities and disillusioned fans might have wanted it differently — perhaps while expressing deep remorse or regrets, though there was plenty of that in Friday night's second part of Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Armstrong didn't break over the $75 million in lost sponsorship deals, or after being forced to walk away from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded and called his "sixth child." He didn't crack after his lifetime ban from competition.
It was another bit of collateral damage that Armstrong said he wasn't prepared to deal with.
"I saw my son defending me and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad is not true,'" Armstrong recalled.
"That's when I knew I had to tell him."
Armstrong was near tears at that point, referring to 13-year-old Luke, the oldest of his five children. He blinked, looked away from Winfrey, and with his lip trembling, struggled to compose himself.
It came just past the midpoint of the hourlong program on Winfrey's OWN network. In the first part, broadcast Thursday, the disgraced cycling champion admitted using performance-enhancing drugs when he won seven straight Tour de France titles.
Critics said he hadn't been contrite enough in the first half of the interview, which was taped Monday in Austin, but Armstrong seemed to lose his composure when Winfrey zeroed in on the emotional drama involving his personal life.
"What did you say?" Winfrey asked.
"I said, 'Listen, there's been a lot of questions about your dad. My career. Whether I doped or did not dope. I've always denied that and I've always been ruthless and defiant about that. You guys have seen that. That's probably why you trusted me on it.' Which makes it even sicker," Armstrong said.
"And uh, I told Luke, I said," and here Armstrong paused for a long time to collect himself, "I said, 'Don't defend me anymore. Don't.'
"He said OK. He just said, 'Look, I love you. You're my dad. This won't change that."
Winfrey also drew Armstrong out on his ex-wife, Kristin, whom he claimed knew just enough about both the doping and lying to ask him to stop. He credited her with making him promise that his comeback in 2009 would be drug-free.
"She said to me, 'You can do it under one condition: That you never cross that line again,'" Armstrong recalled.
"The line of drugs?" Winfrey asked.
"Yes. And I said, 'You've got a deal,'" he replied. "And I never would have betrayed that with her."
A U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that exposed Armstrong as the leader of an elaborate doping scheme on his U.S. Postal Service cycling team included witness statements from at least three former teammates who said Kristin Armstrong participated in or at least knew about doping on the teams and knew team code names for EPO kept in her refrigerator. Postal rider Jonathan Vaughters testified that she handed riders cortisone pills wrapped in foil.
Armstrong said in the first part of the interview that he had stayed clean in the comeback, a claim that runs counter to the USADA report.
And that wasn't the only portion of the interview likely to rile anti-doping officials.
Winfrey asked Armstrong about a "60 Minutes Sports" interview in which USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said a representative of the cyclist had offered a donation that the agency turned down.
"Were you trying to pay off USADA?" she asked.
"No, that's not true," he replied, repeating, "That is not true."
Winfrey asks the question three more times, in different forms.
"That is not true," he insisted.
USADA spokeswoman Annie Skinner replied in a statement: "We stand by the facts both in the reasoned decision and in the '60 Minutes' interview."
Armstrong has talked with USADA officials, and a meeting with Tygart near the Denver airport reportedly ended in an argument over the possibility of modifying the lifetime ban. A person familiar with those conversations said Armstrong could provide information that might get his ban reduced to eight years. By then, he would be 49. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a confidential matter.
After retiring from cycling in 2011, Armstrong returned to triathlons, where he began his professional career as a teenager, and he has told people he's desperate to get back.
Winfrey asked if that was why he agreed to the interview.
"If you're asking me, do I want to compete again ... the answer is hell, yes," Armstrong said. "I'm a competitor. It's what I've done my whole life. I love to train. I love to race. I love to toe the line — and I don't expect it to happen."
Yet just three questions later, a flash of the old Armstrong emerged.
"Frankly," he said, "this may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it. Maybe not right now ... (but) if I could go back to that time and say, 'OK, you're trading my story for a six-month suspension?' Because that's what people got."
"What other people got?" Winfrey asked.
"What everybody got," he replied.
Eleven former Armstrong teammates, including several who previously tested positive for PEDs, testified about the USPS team's doping scheme in exchange for more lenient punishments. Armstrong said in the first part of the interview that he knew his "fate was sealed" when his most trusted lieutenant, George Hincapie, who was alongside him for all seven Tour wins between 1999-2005, was forced to give Armstrong up to anti-doping authorities,
"So I got a death penalty and they got ... six months," Armstrong resumed. "I'm not saying that that's unfair, necessarily, but I'm saying it's different."
Winfrey called Armstrong's tale "an epic story," and asked him what the moral was.
"It's, it, I don't have a great answer there," he began. "I can look at what I did. Cheating to win bike races, lying about it, bullying people. Of course you're not supposed to do those things. That's what we teach our children."
Armstrong paused to compose himself one final time.
"I just think it was about the ride and losing myself, getting caught up in that, and doing all those things along the way that enabled that. The ultimate crime is uh, is the betrayal of those people that supported me and believed in me.
"They got lied to." (AP)
 
EARLIER STORIES: He wants to compete again
Shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong wants to return to competitive sport, but says the driving force behind his belated doping confession was the well-being of his five children.
"The biggest hope and intention was the well-being of my children," Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in the second segment of their televised interview that aired on Friday.
In the first installment aired on Thursday, the 41-year-old Texan admitted for the first time that an array of performance-enhancing drugs helped sweep him to a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005.
Years of aggressive denials -- including vitriolic attacks on those who questioned him, collapsed last year when he was stripped of his Tour titles and banned for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
"The older kids need to not be living with this issue in their lives," Armstrong said. "That isn't fair for me to have done to them. And I did it."
But Armstrong said that if confession could help him regain a place in sport -- in triathlons or marathons -- he'd jump at it.
"Hell yes, I'm a competitor," Armstrong said, adding that he didn't think he deserved the "death penalty" of a lifetime ban.
"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."
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," he said. "I'm deeply sorry for what I did. I can say that thousands of times and it may never be enough to get back."
Thursday's first installment 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 skeptical 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 organization 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 $75 million day."
Armstrong's admissions could carry legal repercussions.
The US Department of Justice is close to making a decision on whether to add the government's name to a complaint lodged in 2010 against Armstrong by former fellow US Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis.
The Postal Service, a federal agency, paid $30 million in public money to sponsor Armstrong's team -- and may now seek to get it back.
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.
Armstrong admits to doping
He did it. He finally admitted it. Lance Armstrong doped.

He was light on the details and didn't name names. He mused that he might not have been caught if not for his comeback in 2009. And he was certain his "fate was sealed" when longtime friend, training partner and trusted lieutenant George Hincapie, who was along for the ride on all seven of Armstrong's Tour de France wins from 1999-2005, was forced to give him up to anti-doping authorities.

But right from the start and more than two dozen times during the first of a two-part interview Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey, the disgraced former cycling champion acknowledged what he had lied about repeatedly for years, and what had been one of the worst-kept secrets for the better part of a week: He was the ringleader of an elaborate doping scheme on a U.S. Postal Service team that swept him to the top of the podium at the Tour de France time after time.

"At the time it did not feel wrong?" Winfrey asked.

"No," Armstrong replied. "Scary."

"Did you feel bad about it?" she pressed him.

"No," he said. "Even scarier."

"Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?"

"No," Armstrong paused. "Scariest."

"I went and looked up the definition of cheat," he added a moment later. "And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."

Wearing a blue blazer and open-neck shirt, Armstrong was direct and matter-of-fact, neither pained nor contrite. He looked straight ahead. There were no tears and very few laughs.

Whether his televised confession will help or hurt Armstrong's bruised reputation and his already-tenuous defense in at least two pending lawsuits, and possibly a third, remains to be seen. Either way, a story that seemed too good to be true - cancer survivor returns to win one of sport's most grueling events seven times in a row - was revealed to be just that.

Winfrey got right to the point, asking for yes-or-no answers to five questions.

Did Armstrong take banned substances? "Yes."

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 his Tour wins? "Yes."

Along the way, Armstrong cast aside teammates who questioned his tactics, yet swore he raced clean and tried to silence anyone who said otherwise. Ruthless and rich enough to settle any score, no place seemed beyond his reach - courtrooms, the court of public opinion, even along the roads of his sport's most prestigious race.

That relentless pursuit was one of the things that Armstrong said he regretted most.

"It's a major flaw, and it's a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. And it's inexcusable. And when I say there are people who will hear this and never forgive me, I understand that. I do."

Anti-doping officials have said nothing short of a confession under oath - "not talking to a talk-show host," is how World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman put it - could prompt a reconsideration of Armstrong's lifetime ban from sanctioned events.

He's also had discussions with officials at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, whose 1,000-page report in October included testimony from nearly a dozen former teammates and led to stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles. Shortly after, he lost nearly all his endorsements and was forced to walk away from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded in 1997.

Armstrong could provide information that might get his ban being reduced to eight years, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. By then, Armstrong would be 49. He returned to triathlons, where he began his professional career as a teenager, after retiring from cycling in 2011, and has told people he's desperate to get back.

There were very few details about Armstrong's performance-enhancing regimen that would surprise anti-doping officials.

What he called "my cocktail" contained the steroid testosterone and the blood-booster erythropoetein, or EPO, "but not a lot," Armstrong said. That was on top of blood-doping, which involved removing his own blood and weeks later re-injecting it into his system.

All of it was designed to build strength and endurance, but it became so routine that Armstrong described it as "like saying we have to have air in our tires or water in our bottles."

"That was, in my view, part of the job," he said.     
 

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