Lance Armstrong, at peace with consequences, faces lifelong commitment

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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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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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