Lance Armstrong: ‘I told my son Luke not to defend me anymore’

Lance Armstrong talks to Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Reuters
Lance Armstrong talks to Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Reuters
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Lance Armstrong says he received the “death penalty” for using performance-enhancing drugs and lying about it for over a decade, but the disgraced cyclist still harbours a desire to compete and hopes his lifetime ban will one day be lifted.

In contrast to the impassive confessions to doping Armstrong gave in the first part of his interview with US talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong struggled with his emotions as he discussed the impact his fall had had on his family.

Eyes welling up and pausing to gather his composure, Armstrong recalled the moment he told his children and said the fallout from the affair had left his mother “a wreck”.

The most humbling moment had come when he had to stand aside from Livestrong, the cancer foundation he established, he said.

“The ultimate crime is the betrayal of these people who support me and believed in me and they got lied to,” he said. Critics said Armstrong had shown little sign of contrition in part one of the interview, but in the second part, aired on Friday night in the US and in the early hours yesterday in the UK, there appeared to be genuine remorse.

The Texan conceded he deserved to be punished for years of doping that helped him win a record seven Tour de France titles. However, he said the penalty he was given by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was much harsher than the sanctions dished out to other self-confessed cheats, who were given lesser sentences for testifying against him.

“I am not saying that’s unfair, I’m saying it is different,” he said in a comment sure to infuriate his critics. “I deserve to be punished but I am not sure I deserve the death penalty.

“With this penalty, this punishment, I made my bed,” he said. “Would I love to run the Chicago marathon when I am 50? I would love to do that but I can’t. Realistically, I don’t think that will happen and I’ve got to live with that.”

Armstrong, who had always denied using banned substances until finally confessing in the interview with Winfrey, again refuted some of the accusations against him in a 1,000-page USADA report that led to his lifetime ban and the voiding of all his race wins.

He denied claims that he continued using drugs when he made his comeback in 2009 and said there was no truth to suggestions a representative of his tried to pay off USADA to drop their investigation into him. “That is not true,” he snapped. “I think they [USADA] said it was $250,000 (£158,000)… that’s a lot of money. I would know about that.”

With his reputation already seemingly beyond repair, the second part of the interview focused on his personal torment rather than his sins. He admitted he was ashamed of what he had done and was closest to tears recalling the moment he told his children.

“I saw my son [Luke] defending me and saying: ‘That’s not true.’ That’s when I knew I had to tell him. He never asked me: ‘Dad is this true?’ He trusts me,” Armstrong said.

“I said: ‘Listen, there’s been a lot of questions about your dad, did I dope and did I not dope? I want you to know that it is true.’ I told Luke: ‘Don’t defend me anymore... if anyone says anything to you do not defend, just say, hey my dad said he was sorry.’”

Armstrong also lost $75 million (£47m) when his sponsors deserted him last year after USADA released its report on him. “All gone. Probably never coming back,” he said. “I’ve lost all future income.”

Cancer survivor Armstrong said he had no idea what the future held but hoped he could rebuild his life. “I’ve been to a dark place that was not of my doing where I didn’t know if I would live,” he said. “You can’t compare this to an advanced diagnosis. That sets the bar. It is close, but I’m an optimist and I like to look forward.”