The interview started with an admission. After years of vehement denial, Lance Armstrong finally copped to it. He doped. Anyone and everyone paying attention to the sport of cycling already knew that fact. Hearing it in his own words, however, is new, and the experience seemed just as unnatural to Armstrong himself. If you missed the confession interview conducted by Oprah, this is the summary version of part one of two in Armstrong’s own words.
This is too late, it’s too late for a lot of people.
All the fault and all the blame falls on me but behind that picture and behind that story is momentum… it just gets going and I lost myself in all that.
I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture. And that’s my mistake and the sport is now paying the price for that.
So you’re saying you didn’t have access to things (drugs) that other people did not.
My cocktail so to speak was EPO, but not a lot, transfusions and testosterone.
Were you afraid of getting caught (early in his career)?
No…You’re not going to get caught because you’re tested at the races…you’re clean at the races…it’s a question of scheduling.
The accusation and the alleged proof that they say I doped after my comeback is not true. The last time I crossed the line, that line, was 2005.
There was never a direct order or a directive to say you have to do this if you want to do the Tour, if you want to be on the team. It was a competitive time we were all grown men we all made our choices, but there were people on the team who chose not to.
Were you a bully?
What made you a bully?
Trying to perpetuate the story and hide the truth.
You’ve been quoted as saying, “We had one goal one ambition and that was to win the greatest bike race in the world and not just win it once but to keep on winning it. And to keep on winning it meant using banned substances to do it.”
Yes. And I’m not saying this is an acceptable answer, but that’s like saying we have to have air in our tires, or water in our bottles. That was in my view part of the job.
Are you saying you did not expect other top riders, your key guys to dope, in order to reach your team’s goal?
Absolutely not, absolutely not.
Did it feel wrong?
At the time? No. It’s scary.
Did you feel bad about it?
No, even scarier.
Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?
No, the scariest.
I looked up the definition of cheat, and it is to gain an advantage over a rival or foe, and I didn’t view it that way, I viewed it as a level playing field.
No, I didn’t fail a test. Whether some stuff was retroactively tested, then yes technially retroactively I failed them. But the hundreds and hundreds of test I took I passed them because there was nothing in the system.
What about the Tour de Swiss?
Again, Im going to tell you what’s true and not true. That story isn’t true, there was no positive test. There was no paying off of the lab, there was no secret meeting with the lab director.
UCI didn’t make that go away?
No, and I am no fan of the UCI. That did not happen.
[When asked if he sued Emma O’Reilly, masseuse who accused Armstrong.]
To be honest Oprah, we sued so many people, I’m sure we did.
You’re suing people and you know that they’re telling the truth, what is that?
It’s a, it’s a major flaw and it’s a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. It’s inexcusable. When I say that there are people that will hear this and will never forgive me I understand that. I have started that process. All of this is a process for me. One of those steps is to speak to those people directly and say that I’m wrong, that you are right.
Was Betsy telling the truth about the Indiana hospital? Overhearing you in 1996?
I’m not going to take that on, I’m laying down on that one…I’m going to put that one down.
We wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t come back.
You would have gotten away with it?
It’s impossible to say. Much better chances.
Did you not always think this day was coming…that you would be found out at some point?
Well, I just assumed the stories would continue for a long time, this isn’t an issue of news stories or interviews, that’s not why were sitting here. Were sitting here because there was a 2-year federal criminal investigation of me. Everyone was called in, subpoenaed, there’s a man with a gun and a badge and the consequences are serious…and then USADA started, not with equal pressure, but with similar pressure…that’s why this is out.
When the Department of Justice dropped the investigation did you have any influence on that at all?
When they dropped the case did you think that it was finally over, done, victory?
I thought I was out of the woods.
In the future wily you cooperate with USADA in order to clean up the sport of cycling?
… I stand on no platform here. Certainly not my place to say, “hey guys, lets clean up cycling.” I’ve got no cred. If there was an effort to, if there was a truth and reconciliation committee, if they have it and I’m invited, I’ll be the first man in the door.”
Part two of the interview will air on OWN and stream live at Oprah.com Friday at 9pm EST.