Six years since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Lance Armstrong is at peace with decisions made as a young cyclist — many of them mistakes, he says now — and how he handles the consequences he brought on himself decades later.
In “Lance Armstrong: Next Stage,” he looked back on the early choices to join cycling’s doping culture and, later as the face of the sport, taking on critics with the same ruthless mentality he used to ascend the Alps and Pyrenees. Armstrong also explained how years of introspection changed how he views what will be a lifelong commitment to handling the impact of his drug use and lying.
The 30-minute, commercial-free special debuts on NBCSN on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET, after Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Armstrong sat down with Mike Tirico for an in-depth interview.
Armstrong says now it was the wrong decision to take performance-enhancing drugs, but at the time it was necessary to make it in professional cycling in Europe. Doping was spreading if not pervasive when he arrived in the early 1990s.
“I knew there were going to be knives at this fight. Not just fists. I knew there would be knives,” he said. “I had knives, and then one day, people start showing up with guns. That’s when you say, do I either fly back to Plano, Texas, and not know what you’re going to do? Or do you walk to the gun store? I walked to the gun store. I didn’t want to go home.
“I don’t want to make excuses for myself that everybody did it or we never could have won without it. Those are all true, but the buck stops with me. I’m the one who made the decision to do what I did. I didn’t want to go home, man. I was going to stay.”
Another mistake: Going after those who sought to expose him with the same nastiness he used on the bike.
“I couldn’t turn it off. Huge mistake,” he said. “We’d all love to go back in life and have a few do-overs. I never should have taken it on, especially knowing that most of what they said was true.”
Armstrong said he’s traveled the world trying to rectify what he can. That he has apologized to every person that the public might think deserves one. It will never be enough.
Armstrong splits his at-home time between Austin, Texas, and Aspen, Colo. He is a co-founding partner of Next Ventures, an investment firm focusing on the health and wellness industry. He also launched WEDŪ, an endurance-sports brand, that hosts two podcasts that have built decent audiences.
On “The Move,” Armstrong and others dissect endurance sports with an emphasis on cycling’s Grand Tours.
On “The Forward,” Armstrong interviews myriad personalities, from Charles Barkley to Neil deGrasse Tyson. Armstrong believes that asking questions himself produces unique answers.
“Because they see a guy across the table, they know he’s been nuked,” he said. “They feel a sense of protection there that I can almost tell this guy anything because he’s been through everything.”
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