Armstrong comes clean about his dirty past


CYCLING:Lance Armstrong ended years of vehement denial on Thursday by finally coming clean and admitting he had cheated his way to a record seven Tour de France titles with systematic use of banned, performance-enhancing drugs.

Confessing his “toxic” tale to chat show host Oprah Winfrey, the cyclist described himself as a “flawed character” while at last owning up to being at the centre of one of the biggest drugs scandals in world sport.

In one word at the beginning of the interview broadcast worldwide, cancer survivor Armstrong confirmed his place in any gallery of fallen icons who have shamed their sport.

“Yes,” he replied when asked directly whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs. Winfrey rapidly fired questions at him, offering the 41-year-old little respite, grilling him about every aspect of his tainted career.

Without hesitation, and showing no signs of emotion, Armstrong replied “yes” to questions about whether he used specific drugs, including human growth hormone, erythropoietin and blood doping.

When asked why he had repeatedly lied about using banned substances, he told Winfrey: “I don’t know I have a great answer. This is too late, probably for most people, and that’s my fault. I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times. This story is so bad . . . so toxic.

“It’s not as if I said no and moved off it. While I’ve lived through this process, I know the truth. The truth isn’t what I said and now it’s gone.”

Fairy-tale career

Armstrong inspired millions with what had seemed like a fairy-tale career, and said he did not believe he could have achieved what he did without breaking the rules due to a culture of drugs in cycling.

“Not in that generation. I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture,” he said. “It’s hard to talk about the culture. I don’t want to accuse anyone else. I’m here to acknowledge my mistakes.

“I will spend the rest of my life trying to win back trust and apologising to people.”

Improved testing

Armstrong said he had never considered himself to be a cheat and had been sure he would get away with it, until out-of-competition tests were introduced and testing procedures dramatically improved.

The last time he cheated was in 2005, he said, when he won his seventh Tour de France. He made a comeback in 2009 but said he never used drugs again.

Armstrong’s admission came months after the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) released a detailed report describing him as the ringmaster of the “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

While he confessed to cheating and bullying, he denied several of the other accusations that have been made against him. He rejected suggestions he failed a doping test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland then paid off the International Cycling Union (UCI) and doping officials to cover up the result.

“That story isn’t true. There was no positive test, no paying off of the lab. The UCI did not make that go away. I’m no fan of the UCI,” he said.

Armstrong’s downfall was triggered by a two-year federal investigation that was dropped but led to the Usada probe. Usada boss Travis Tygart said Armstrong still had some way to go if he wanted to make amends.

“Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit,” Tygart said in a statement. “His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.”

Armstrong has already been banned for life, stripped of all his race wins and dumped by sponsors. On Thursday, hours before the interview aired, the International Olympic Committee stripped him of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Games.– Reuters

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