Interviewed by BBC Sport, Lance Armstrong defended his doping in the 1990s by asserting that many bicyclists adopted the practice, and he would do it again if given the chance.
Armstrong, 43, whose seven Tour de France titles were stripped from him when the truth of his doping came to light, said, “If I was racing in 2015, I wouldn’t do it again. Take me back to 1995 when it was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again. People don’t like to hear that. That’s the honest answer.”
He added, “If I go back to 1995, I think we’re all sorry. You know what we are sorry for? We’re sorry we were put in that place. None of us wanted to be in that place. We all would have loved to compete man on man … naturally, clean. Yeah, we’re sorry. We all looked around as desperate kids.”
Armstrong pointed out that his critics ignore all the benefits of what he accomplished. He said:
When Lance Armstrong did that, I know what happened because of that. I know what happened to the sport of cycling; from 1995 to 2005; I saw its growth; I saw its expansion. I know what happened with the industry; the cycling industry; I know what happened to Trek bicycles, $100 million in sales to a billion in sales; I know what happened to my foundation, from raising no money to raising $500 million serving three million people. Do all those people want to … do we want to make a different decision, do we want to take it away? I don’t think anybody says yes.
He added later, “I get it; I need to be punished, but don’t we have to look at the whole play?”
Armstrong pointed out that other riders who had doped got a different phone call than he did. He said their phone calls sounded like this: “You’re not getting punished, here’s what we need to hear.” He added, “I never got that call.”
The bicyclist spoke of the aftermath of his fall and his biggest fear:
The fallout has been heavy, maybe even heavier than I thought. The way that I told that story or told the world, through Oprah, as good a job as I think she did, or the best job she could do for herself, it was pretty brutal afterwards. It’s been tough, it’s been trying, it’s required some patience … but it seems like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel … My biggest fear was that I’d have that day where one of my older kids, my two youngest ones are too young to even know, or their classmates to know … but you’d have that where a thirteen-year-old or a fifteen-year-old would come home and just be in pieces: “Dad, I heard this in the hallway,” or “I read this on social media,” or “Is this true?” That would rock me.
Armstrong admitted that what really bothers him is the man he was, saying that “what I want, I don’t really care what anybody else wants, I’ll tell you what I would want to do is that I would want to change the man who did those things. Maybe not the decision, but the way he acted. The way he treated other people, the way he couldn’t, he just couldn’t stop fighting.”
Armstrong finally admitted doping in 2013 on Oprah Winfrey’s show. He told CNN last August, “Once you say ‘no’ you have to keep saying ‘no.’ If this stuff hadn’t taken place with the federal investigation, I’d probably still be saying ‘no’ with the same conviction and tone as before. But that gig is up.”