Controversy-hit cyclist Lance Armstrong has revealed the extent of his substance abuse to Oprah Winfrey. Answering a visceral series of 'yes' or 'no' questions fired off by the chat show queen, the sportsman admitted that all seven of his historic Tour de France wins were fuelled by banned substances and procedures.
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"The truth is out there and it isn't what I said," he confessed. "The story was so perfect for so long: you overcome the disease, you have a happy marriage, you have kids, it's this mythic, perfect story, and that wasn't true." The truth of Lance Armstrong's success could instead be found in a potent cocktail of the blood-boosting hormone Erythropoietin, known as EPO, testosterone, and blood transfusions. He revealed that these substances were all behind his insatiable sporting prowess, and when asked by Oprah if he though winning the Tour De France seven consecutive times was even humanly possible, he answered: "not in my opinion".Recognising that his confession was coming "too late", Lance said: "I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times". He added: "I made my decisions, they are my mistake, and I'm sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say sorry for that".
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Despite admitting to allegations that he had fiercely denied for more than a decade, at times at the cost of other people's reputations, the 41-year-old was composed during every minute of his questioning. He drew a distinction between his substance abuse and being a cheat, saying: "I looked up the definition of cheating and the definition is 'to gain an advantage on a rival or foe'. I did not view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field." According to Lance, this is because the "culture" of unofficial practices was so common in cycling that it was "like saying we have to have air in our tyres, we have to have water in our bottles." He also admitted to being a "bully" within his sport, adding: "I tried to control the narrative. And if someone challenged that I would simply say 'that's a lie, they are the liars'. I had a win-at-all-costs mentality".
Reflecting on his gruelling confessional, Lance came to a sombre conclusion. "I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people for the rest of my life," he said. "People will see me as someone who has disrespected the [Tour de France] and the sport…and I did." Oprah Winfrey's interview came days after the sportsman made an emotional apology to the Livestrong charity, a non-profit organisation that provides support for people affected by cancer, initially founded in 1997 by Lance, himself a testicular cancer survivor. According to a source, the cyclist apologised for disappointing them and putting the foundation at risk. He reportedly "choked up" during the meeting, and several other employees were said to have shed tears. In wake of the revelations, Lance has now received a lifetime ban from Olympic sports and was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles. His family now stand by him as the "perfect" life they lived is slowly stripped away.
The athlete is a father of five. He has three children with ex-wife Kristin Richard, Luke David and twins Isabelle Rose and Grace Elisabeth, and two children with his girlfriend Anna Hansen. It was thought he wouldn't be able to father more children after his battle with cancer, but the couple welcomed Maxwell in 2009 and Olivia the following year. Lance was also engaged to singer Sheryl Crow, but the couple split in 2006 after two and a half years together.