Lance Armstrong has publicly admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs to help him win all seven of his Tour de France titles, after years of denying he had cheated.
The 41-year-old cyclist, once considered the greatest his sport had ever seen, finally came clean in the first part of a much-hyped exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey on her American cable network OWN.
The interview opened with a simple but extremely revealing exchange (see video below) with Oprah asking Armstrong to answer her questions with just a “yes or no”.
“Yes or no? Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?” asked Oprah.
“Yes,” replied Armstrong.
“Was one of those banned substances EPO?” / “Yes.”
“Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?” / “Yes.”
“Did you ever use any other banned substances like testosterone, cortisone or human growth hormones?” / “Yes.”
“In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substsances or blood dope?” / “Yes.”
“In your opinion, was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping – seven times in a row?” / “No, not in my opinion.”
However, Armstrong stopped short of admitting accusations that he was a mastermind behind doping in the sport and that had bribed officials to cover up his cheating. He also said that he had not taken drugs during his comeback in 2009.
"I didn't invent the culture and I didn't try to stop the culture... and the sport is now paying the price of that and I'm sorry for that. I didn't have access to anything else that anybody else did," he said.
Armstrong said that he lost himself in the fairytale of an athlete overcoming testicular cancer and making a comeback to rise to the top of his sport. He said “This story” – which included the establishment of his own cancer charity, Livestrong – “was so perfect for so long.”
Answering allegations that he instructed team mates to take EPO and similar drugs, he said: “[I was] the team leader but not the manager. There was never a direct order or directive that 'you have to do this'. We were grown men, we all made our choices." However, he did admit “I was a bully. In the sense I tried to control the narrative and if I didn't like what someone said... I tried to control that”.
Looking genuinely embarrassed when shown video of a previous on-screen denial of doping, Armstrong said "I look at that clip and think, 'look at that arrogant prick'. That's not me today.
"These were people who believed in me, who believed me, and they have every right to feel betrayed. I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people."
The second part of the exclusive interview will run on OWN tonight.