Lance Armstrong says he was ‘singled out’

Lance Armstrong
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Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to being “way too aggressive” in his years of denying doping allegations but said that he was “singled out” for being combative.

Armstrong, who was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles last year, said he would still dope if he had to do it over again because most of his peers were cheating, too, according to ESPN.com, citing a 9,000-word ESPN the Magazine interview with Joe Lindsey.

Armstrong also received a life ban and was stripped of an Olympic bronze medal. Others who have admitted to doping during their cycling careers have not been stripped of Olympic medals or Tour de France titles.

“I would even say we all knew what everybody was doing, so I knew what my competitors were doing,” Armstrong said of the main contenders to win the Tour. “We [U.S. Postal Service team] were doing less. We were more conservative, and that’s the reason we were never going to be caught.

Armstrong, who said he still had “no credibility,” discussed plenty in the interview, including his January sitdown with Oprah Winfrey, when he confessed to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

“A buddy of mine told me one day, and I think he’s right, and I respect this guy’s opinion, and he said, “Oprah, for the average person, was too much information,'” Armstrong said. “And for the hardcore cycling fan, it wasn’t enough. So you were stuck in the middle where everyone’s pissed.”

Armstrong said he didn’t have any goals in doing the Winfrey interview, that he wanted to answer her questions honestly.

“Leading up to that, I think people thought she would not give a tough interview, not ask hard questions,” Armstrong said. “I thought the first five minutes got her out of that trap.”

Winfrey came under scrutiny for missing chances to ask follow-up questions. Armstrong contended with that.

“If you ask me questions about what I did in 2001 or what the peloton did in 2001, I’m not going to answer your questions,” he said. “If the governing body of the sport decides to have a full, complete and comprehensive effort to try to address and learn and understand everything, then that’s when I’ll answer questions. To Oprah or to you, that’s not the place to answer those questions. You would love it. She would love it. The hardcore cycling fan would love it. But this isn’t the time and place to answer those questions. If the mission is really to address the issue, not singling out individuals, then let’s do that. Let’s do what we stated we were going to do. Because we haven’t done that yet. In that setting, ask the question, I’ll answer the question.”

Armstrong said if he could go back to 1995, when he started using the popular PED Erythropoietin (EPO), he would have made the same decision. Armstrong would go on to win the first of his seven Tour de France titles in 1999, the year after cycling’s Festina doping scandal rocked the prestigious grand tour.

“It could have been Yosemite Sam winning [in 1999] and he would have been asked a lot of questions,” Armstrong told ESPN the Magazine. “And if he’s winning the Tour in 1999, he’s crossing the line [by doping], for sure. I think that person does the same thing I did, to a degree. They say, ‘No, I’m not cheating.’ I don’t know anybody that would have, at some press conference, and Joe Lindsey says, ‘Are you clean?’ and I don’t know anyone who says, ‘Joe, I’m glad you asked me that. And I’m not.'”

Armstrong said he lied during his championship run to defend his sport, which he said was “on life support,” his U.S. Postal Service team and his foundation.

“In a weird way, I had no choice,” he said.

He also said he thought he would still win the record seven titles if the entire Tour de France field did not use performance-enhancing drugs.

“And I think my competitors, my teammates think that,” Armstrong said. “Guys that saw me or us at work would agree, that with or without dope, those results stay the same. So I would love to have had that opportunity. But I didn’t.”

That agrees with what Armstrong’s biggest rival, Jan Ullrich, said in October, that Armstrong should keep his seven Tour titles.

Bradley Wiggins knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open
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Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina became the first player to reach the fourth round. She won 6-0, 6-1 over 69th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA champion from Texas.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is the lone American woman left in the bottom half of the draw. She plays Kazakh Yulia Putintseva later Friday. Gauff, Bernarda Pera and Kayla Day remain in the top half.

Friday’s featured men’s matches: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz versus 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley
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American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His South Carolina-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from South Carolina and with him for meet travel.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Francique is based in Texas. He moved from Texas to South Carolina.

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