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.