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Live updates: Lance Armstrong says he wishes he hadn’t fought USADA

Banned cyclist Lance Armstrong talks to Oprah Winfrey about performance enhancing drugs in an interview that was recorded on Monday.
(George Burns / AFP / Getty Images)

Lance Armstrong said in his interview broadcast Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey that he did not do anything to try to influence the U.S. Atty.’s office in Los Angeles to drop its grand-jury probe of him last February.

“No, none, that’s very difficult to influence,” he said.

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Asked if he thought he had achieved victory from the scrutiny of doping allegations when no charges were filed, he said, “I thought I was out of the woods.”

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Armstrong told Winfrey he’s convinced he could have avoided this scenario if he had remained retired after the seventh Tour win. He said his comeback “didn’t sit well with” former teammate Floyd Landis.

“That period began this,” he said.

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Regret coming back? Winfrey asked.

“I do,” he said. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t come back.”

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Asked if he always feared this day of reckoning would come, Armstrong said, “Well, I just assumed the stories would continue for a long time.”

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The federal investigation and the USADA probe changed that theory.

Armstrong said he wishes he had responded to USADA’s inquiry instead of fighting it.

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He said his reaction was, “Coming in on my territory, I’m going to fight back.

“I’d do anything to go back to that day. I wouldn’t fight. I wouldn’t sue ‘em. I’d listen. I’d say, ‘Guys, let me call my family, my sponsors, my organization, tell them what I’ve got to do, and I’ll be right there. I wish I had done that.”

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Posted at 7:19 PDT

Oprah Winfrey noted the recent statement of USADA chief Travis Tygart that six samples taken from Lance Armstrong after the 1999 Tour de France prologue came back in 2005 as positive for EPO, which wasn’t tested for in 1999.

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“I didn’t fail a test,” Armstrong said. “I passed those others with nothing in my system.”

Armstrong argued he also did not give a donation to the International Cycling Union to get them to turn their attention away from another suspect result.

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“It’s impossible to make anyone believe it,” but “it was not in exchange,” Armstrong said. “They called and said they didn’t have a lot of money. I had money, was retired. I said, ‘Sure.’”

Armstrong, however, admitted his people wrongly backdated a prescription for banned cortisone after he tested positive for it in 1999. He wound up suing his former masseuse, Emma O’Reilly, for telling the story of the backdated prescription to a reporter.

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“She’s one of those people I have to apologize to,” Armstrong said. “She got run over, got bullied. We sued so many people. I have reached out to her to make amends.”

Winfrey asked Armstrong why he has sued people when he knew they were telling the truth.

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“It’s a major flaw,” he said. “A guy who wanted to control every outcome. To never forgive me, I understand that. I have started that process to speak to those people directly.”

Armstrong said he has similarly reached out to Betsy Andreu, who said she and her former husband Frankie, a former Armstrong teammate, heard Armstrong admit to using testosterone in a 1996 hospital room.

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Armstrong would not answer if the Andreus were telling the truth.

“I’m not going to take that one on,” he said. “I’m going to put that one down.”

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Asked if his relationship with the Andreus is good, Armstrong said strongly, “No. They’ve been hurt too badly. A 40-minute conversation is not enough.”

You called her crazy, Winfrey said.

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“I did,” he said.

Posted at 7:01 PST

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Later in the taped interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong was shown a clip after his record seventh Tour de France win, in which he said, “To the cynics and skeptics, I’m sorry you can’t dream big and believe in miracles. You should believe in these people, and hard work wins it.”

Armstrong told Winfrey, “I’ve made some mistakes in my career and that was a mistake. That sounds ridiculous. I’m embarrassed.”

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He said cycling meant, “We’re going to pump up the tires, fill up our water bottles, oh, and there’s that too.”

Did it feel wrong? Winfrey asked.

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“No … scary,” Armstrong said.

Feel bad?

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“No, even scarier.”

View it as cheating?

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“No, scariest.”

“The definition of cheating is to gain an advantage on a foe,” Armstrong said. “I viewed it as a level playing field.”

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But you’re Lance Armstrong, Winfrey said.

“I know, but hindsight is 20/20,” he said. “I didn’t know what I had.”

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People “have every right to feel betrayed,” he added. “It’s my fault. I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back their trust.”

Posted at 6:51 PST

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Lance Armstrong rebutted the statement by former teammate Christian Vande Velde that he had forced the rider to use performance-enhancing substances to remain on the team.

As his Thursday night interview with Oprah Winfrey continued, Armstrong said Vande Velde’s statement in the massive U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that led to Armstrong’s being stripped of his titles and banned from competition was “not true.”

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“There was a level of expectation; we expected guys to be fit, strong and perform,” he said. “I know I’m not the most believable guy in the world right now, but I didn’t do that.”

Yet, pressed by Winfrey about his own use as the team leader, Armstrong said he “accepted” how Vande Velde could interpret it that way.

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Was he a bully?

“Yeah, yeah, I was a bully.... In the sense that I tried to control the narrative, and if I didn’t like what somebody said … I tried to control that and say that’s a lie.”

He said he learned growing up, “I will do everything I can to survive. I took it all into cycling, win at all costs. I wasn’t a bully” before cycling.

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He said he became one to “perpetuate the story and hide the truth … winning was important.”

Armstrong somewhat defended his now-banned doctor Michele Ferrari, stopping short of calling the chemical expert the “mastermind” or “leader” of the doping program. Armstrong did agree it was reckless to unite with Ferrari.

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“There are people in this story who are not evil. I viewed Michele Ferrari as a smart man, and I still do.”

He viewed a videotape of him previously saying Ferrari was free of any doping guilt and told Winfrey he thought badly of himself.

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“That’s an arrogant person,” he said of himself.

Posted at 6:35 PST

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Lance Armstrong said his story of returning from cancer to dominate the Tour de France was “perfect for so long.”

In his Thursday night interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong said, “Overcoming the disease, winning the Tour, the happy marriage. It was mythic, the perfect story. It wasn’t true. I’m a flawed character....

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“Behind the story is the momentum” of it.

“I lost myself in all of that. I was one who controlled every outcome of my life,” he added.

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Amid his stripped titles, lifetime competition ban and scores of people who view him as a fraud, Armstrong said, “Now this story is so bad and so toxic.”

He told Winfrey he didn’t “invent the culture” of doping in cycling, “but I didn’t try to stop the culture, and I’m sorry for that.”

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He disputed the contention by U.S. Anti-Doping chief Travis Tygart that his was the most sophisticated doping system in sport history.

“It was definitely professional, definitely smart, but very conservative, risk-adverse. To say that it was bigger than the East German Olympic machine of the ‘70s and 80’s. … “

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Armstrong said he wasn’t talking to Winfrey to accuse others of wrongdoing.

“I made my decisions,” he said. “I’m here to acknowledge that and say sorry for that.”

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He said no one on his team was “forced or pressured” to dope as well, but accepted that others could have taken the cue from him to use drugs to keep up.

Armstrong said he viewed his doping as “simple,” using “things that were oxygen-boosting drugs that were incredibly beneficial for endurance sports. And that’s all you needed. My only cocktail was EPO, transfusions and testosterone, which I almost justified with my history of testicular cancer.”

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Posted at 6:20 PST

Lance Armstrong opened his anticipated Thursday night interview with Oprah Winfrey by saying “yes” to repeated questions that he took banned substances to win all seven of his Tour de France titles.

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Armstrong said “yes” to questions about use of the banned energy-boosting substance EPO, blood-doping practices, transfusions, testosterone, HGH and cortisone.

He said he started using in the “EPO generation” of the mid-1990s.

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Armstrong was asked why he so “brazenly denied” allegations of the use for years by Winfrey, which he called “the most logical” and “best” question.

“This is too late probably for most people,” he said about his aggressive reactions to people who alleged he had doped. “And that’s my fault. I view this situation as one big lie I’ve repeated a lot of times.”

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Asked about the culture of drug use in cycling at the time he was competing, Armstrong said, “I don’t want to accuse anybody else. I made my decisions… I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that. The culture was what it was.”

He also said that he had little fear about being caught because there wasn’t much out-of-competition testing.

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Posted at 5:50 PST

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Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey is about to get underway, the discussion expected to open with Winfrey reminding the disgraced cycling champion that she is not bound by conditions and that the interview is “an open field.”

After years of firm denials, Armstrong is expected to make some confessions to Winfrey about his use of performance-enhancing drugs and banned methods while winning seven Tour de France titles.

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The 41-year-old, who was stripped of the Tour titles and slapped with a lifetime competition ban last year, was scorched in a 1,000-plus-page report released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October.

That report included statements from 11 former Armstrong teammates about the cyclist’s use of testosterone, energy boosting EPO and other banned methods, with some saying they were pressured to break rules as Armstrong did.

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While Armstrong avoided a dirty drug test during the Tours, his teammates and others revealed the sophisticated steps he took to time his doping and hide from testers, relying on the expertise of a doctor to help him beat the system.

Since the report, Armstrong has lost every major sponsor who had supported him and has parted with the cancer-fighting charity Livestrong he helped create.

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He may face legal repercussions from his statements to Winfrey, including a civil claim and a whistleblower lawsuit against him filed by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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Twitter.com/latimespugmire


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