In a sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Thursday night on Winfrey’s OWN channel, Lance Armstrong admitted to using banned substances, including the hormone EPO and testosterone, to win his seven straight Tour De France races in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Oprah Winfrey wasted no time getting straight answers from Armstrong in their highly publicized interview that was recorded Monday in Austin, Texas.
After establishing the ground rules (nothing off-limits), Winfrey began with a series of yes-or-no questions.
Did Armstrong ever take banned substances? “Yes.”
Was one of those substances EPO? “Yes.”
Did Armstrong believe it was possible to achieve his seven wins without doping? “Not in my opinion.”
When Winfrey asked why he was coming clean now, he admitted it was a good question, then said the lie had just grown too big to sustain.
“This story was so perfect for so long,” Armstrong said. “It’s just this mythic perfect story and it wasn’t true.”
While Armstrong admitted to doping to achieve his Tour de France wins, he adamantly denied forcing other people on his team to dope and he also denied any doping after 2005. He said his performances in the race in 2009 and 2010 were totally clean.
“My cocktail, so to speak, was EPO, but not a lot, transfusions and testosterone,” Armstrong told Winfrey. “Which in a weird way I justified because of my history of testicular cancer.... Surely I’m running low.”
Armstrong explained that it was the changes in drug testing and the introduction of out-of-competition testing, as well as the biological passport that closely monitored a cyclist’s blood and urine levels over a period of time, that led him to decide that the doping was no longer sustainable.
In the run-up to the interview’s airing, Armstrong faced further disgrace when the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday that it was stripping Armstrong of the bronze medal he won at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. According to the Associated Press, the timing had nothing to do with the airing of the Winfrey interview. He had previously been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and all results since 1998.
On “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday, Winfrey talked to Charlie Rose about the Armstrong interview. She told him it was “the biggest interview I’ve ever done in terms of exposure.” In addition to airing it on her OWN cable channel, Winfrey also streamed it live through her website, Oprah.com.
As it turns out, the interview is as important to Winfrey and OWN as it is to Armstrong. For Armstrong, it’s the first step in a long journey the shamed athlete is taking to rehabilitate his public image. Winfrey is looking to juice the audience for her cable channel, which has struggled with a nightly audience of 329,000 viewers on average.