The second part of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey did little to satisfy those who still doubt his confessions about his doping past. It did, however, produce at least one moment of emotion from the shamed cyclist.
Recalling the day he told his 13-year-old son Luke that he was a drugs cheat, Armstrong appeared to well up. “I said, don’t defend me anymore… just say, ‘Hey, my dad says he’s sorry.’” His son, said Armstrong, was, “remarkably calm and mature about it.”
The Texan told Winfrey that his ex-wife, Luke’s mother Kristin, had been aware of his doping during their marriage, which ended in 2003. When he decided to make his Tour de France comeback in 2009, he claimed, he sought her blessing. She told him he should race on one condition: that he didn’t cheat. Despite Armstrong’s denials, many believe he was still doping during the 2009 and 2010 Tours. He also rejected the accusation that he tried to pay off the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with a six-figure donation to prevent the truth coming out. “Oprah,” he said, “It’s not true.”
The first segment of the interview, broadcast at 2am GMT on Friday, was the most-watched programme in the history of the Oprah Winfrey Network, drawing an audience of 4.3m to the US broadcast. But with Armstrong’s confessions mostly complete, the second part was devoted to their effects on his family and his cancer foundation, Livestrong. Armstrong described his resignation from the Livestrong board as “the most humbling moment” of the whole affair.
He offered his apologies to the millions of people who had supported the charity and worn its yellow bracelets. “I understand your anger, your sense of betrayal,” he said. “You supported me through all of this, you believed and I lied to you. And I’m sorry… I’m committed to spending as long as I have to, to make amends.”
That contrition is in marked contrast to Armstrong’s defiant attitude following USADA’s damning October report into his doping. In November, he posted a now-infamous self-portrait on Twitter, of himself reclining on a sofa at his Austin home, beneath his seven framed Tour de France yellow jerseys. The tweet, he told Winfrey, was a mistake. “I thought it was a good idea at the time.”
Armstrong estimated that the loss of his sponsors, including Nike, had cost him tens of millions of dollars. “I’ve certainly lost all future income,” he said. “The day all [my sponsors] left… That was a $75m day. Gone – and probably never coming back.”
Armstrong claimed his cancer diagnosis in 1996, after which doctors gave him less than a 50 per cent chance of survival, was a worse period of his life than the present. He also complained that being banned from all sporting competition for life would be unfair.
Armstrong said: "I can't lie to you. I'd love the opportunity to be able to compete, but that isn't the reason I'm doing this (the interview).
"Frankly, this might not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it (to be able to compete again).
"I deserve to be punished. I'm not sure that I deserve a death penalty."
He added: "If you look at the situation, if you look at that culture, you look at the sport, you see the punishments. I could go back to that time... you're trading my story for a six-month suspension. That's what people got. What everybody got.
"I got a death penalty. I'm not saying that that's unfair, necessarily, but I'm saying it's different."
Armstrong, now 41, suggested he would “love to run the Chicago marathon” when he turns 50.