AUSTIN, Texas — Lance Armstrong confessed. He choked up. He apologized.
After 13 years of fierce denials, the disgraced cyclist admitted to Oprah Winfrey during a 21/2-hour, two-night interview that he did indeed use performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times.
Highlights of Armstrong’s confession:
Q: So Armstrong admitted doping?
A: Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. In a rapid-fire sequence of five questions at the start of the interview, Armstrong admitted using performance-enhancing drugs and other banned doping techniques, including blood boosters, steroids and blood transfusions, every year he won the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005.
The blunt, matter-of-fact confession came in the opening minutes of the interview with Winfrey. Armstrong also acknowledged that in his opinion, he could not have won those races without doping.
Q: Why did he dope?
A: Armstrong said it was designed to build strength and endurance and became so routine that it was “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.
But Armstrong also tempered the admission by saying that at the time, he justified the doping as leveling the playing field in a sport rife with drugs during his era.
Q: Did Armstrong totally come clean?
A: Armstrong answered the ultimate question. But his critics, notably the U.S. Anti-Doping agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency, say they want to hear a lot more from him under oath, not in a television interview.
Armstrong made broad confessions to cheating but did not detail “how” he and members of the U.S. Postal Service teams beat hundreds of drug tests. He also would not answer a direct question to confirm whether or not he had told doctors treating his cancer in 1996 that he had taken a plethora of performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong also denied doping during his comeback in 2009-2010, a claim contrary to USADA’s report last year that exposed Armstrong’s drug use.
Q: Did he cry?
A: Armstrong shed no tears when confessing drug use to Winfrey and critics seized on his apparent lack of contrition. He got tears in his eyes and paused to gather his emotions when he talked about confessing to his children, particularly 13-year-old son Luke, and telling them not to defend him anymore. Armstrong also said he felt ashamed by the lies and said one of his darkest moments was having to leave the Livestrong Foundation he founded in 1997 and helped build into a $500 million cancer-fighting charity.
Q: Why confess now and can he come back?
A: Both are open questions.
Armstrong surprised many by scheduling the interview while facing several lawsuits and anticipating more. Armstrong says that despite his lifetime ban from sport, he wants to compete in triathlons and elite running events. That would be up for USADA and WADA to decide and won’t happen until he gives those groups the sworn testimony they want. Armstrong suggested that may never happen when he told Winfrey that “realistically” he may never be allowed to compete in sanctioned events again.
Armstrong flashed the old defiance when he said he didn’t deserve the “death penalty” of a lifetime ban when other riders who admitted cheating under oath were given six-month punishments.
Q: What’s next for him?
A: Armstrong must navigate a legal minefield. The U.S. Justice Department is still considering whether to join a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that Armstrong defrauded the Postal Service. The Sunday Times in London has sued him to recover a $500,000 libel judgment plus damages. And Dallas-based SCA Promotions is threatening a lawsuit to recover $12 million it paid him in bonuses for winning the Tour de France.