Lance Armstrong’s Oprah Interview, Part I: Cyclist Confesses To Doping, Bullying

lance armstrong oprah

Lance Armstrong and Oprah sat down for the cyclist’s first interview addressing the USADA doping allegations on Monday, and his confession is finally being televised tonight. The emotional interview will continue tomorrow, but for now, we’re updating this post with essential quotes and information from the interview, in which the cyclist confesses to doping and being a bully to other cyclists for the first time since the USADA report came out in 2012.

Did he use EPO? Yes.

Did he think it was humanly possible to win the Tour de France 7 times without doping? No.

On his history of using banned substances: “Earlier in my career there was cortisone and then the EPO generation began.” Which, for him, begain in the mid-90s.

When asked about his history of lying and defying people who accused Lance Armstrong of doping:

I don’t know that I have a great answer, I will start […]by saying that this is too late, too late for probably most people. and that’s my fault. I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times, and as you said, it wasn’t as if I just said no and moved on.

 

While I’ve lived through this process, especially the last two years […] I know the truth, the truth isn’t what was out there, it wasn’t what I said.

 

The story was so perfect for so long. [It was] this mythic perfect story, and it wasn’t true…on a lot of levels.

Was it hard to live up to that picture? “Impossible. I’m a flawed character, and I couldn’t do it.”

On his own role in perpetuating the story:

All the fault and blame falls on me, but behind that picture and story was momentum. Whether it’s fans or the media, it just gets going, and I lost myself in all that. I’m sure there would be other people who couldn’t handle it, but I certainly couldn’t handle it. I was used to controlling everything in my life. I controlled every outcome in my life.

When Oprah asked Lance Armstrong about the prevalence of doping in cycling, he explained: “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 a price because of that, so i am sorry for that.”

When Oprah asked about his role in pressuring members of the U.S. Postal Service pro cycling team, Armstrong responded: “I don’t want to accuse anyone else… I made my decisions, they are my mistake.”

He asserted that there was never a direct order to his teammates to dope, but did admit that he “was the leader of the team, and any leader leads by example.”

“We were all grown men, we all made our own choices, but there were people on the team who chose not to. […] There was a level of expectation: We expected guys to be fit, be strong and perform.”

Ever the expert interviewer, Oprah pressed him: “Could a level of expectation be implied to mean ‘if you don’t do this, you’re not gonna be on the team’?” He continued taking partial blame, explaining that “even if I don’t say it, if I do it, and I’m the leader of the team, you’re leading by example, so that’s a problem.”

To which Oprah bluntly asked “are we talking semantics?” Lance Armstrong explained: “Well no, I view one of them as a verbal pressure, a direct…and that didn’t exist.” The continued dancing around the point, when Oprah asked a poignant question…

Was Lance Armstrong a bully? “Yeah,” he readily responded. “I was a bully in the sense that i tried to control the narrative, and if I didn’t like what someone said…whether I viewed that as someone being disloyal…I tried to say that’s a lie, they’re a liar.”

When asked about whether it felt wrong to dope, and whether it felt like a big deal, the Lance Armstrong Oprah interview got intense. Here’s a rough transcript:

Oprah: Was it a big deal? did it feel wrong?

Lance Armstrong: At the time? No.

O: Did you feel bad about it?

LA: No. Even scarier.

O: Did you feel you were cheating?

LA: No. That’s the scariest.

O: You didn’t feel you were cheating?

LA: At the time, no. I went and looked up the definition of cheat, and the definition of cheat is to gain an advantage against a foe. I viewed it as a level playing field.

O: But you knew that you were held to a higher standard.

LA: I knew that, but of course hindsight is perfect. I know it a thousand times more now. I didn’t know what I had. Look at the fallout.

O: What did you mean by ‘you didn’t know’?

LA: I didn’t understand the magnitude of that following.

O: That’s gonna be hard for people to believe. How could you not know it’s big?

LA: You asked me the question and I said I didn’t know. And I didn’t know. But the important thing is that i’m beginning to understand that. I see the anger in people.

These are people that supported me, believed in me, believe me, not just in me, but believed what i was saying . and they have every right to feel betrayed, and it’s my fault. and i will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people, for the rest of my life.

O: When you say you didn’t know it was this bg, when your’e in it, it feels like what?

LA: It was easy. It just flowed. I was in a zone, like athletes get. It wasn’t exactly a perfect world, that wasn’t the happiest time in my life, believe it or now. I can tell you now that I’m happier today than I was then.

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