Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong acknowledged that he should be punished for taking — and lying about taking — banned substances during his interview with Oprah Winfrey, but he believes his “sentence” is too harsh.
“I deserve to be punished. I’m not sure I deserve a death penalty,” he said in part two of the interview, which aired Friday night on OWN, adding that he feels that some of his fellow teammates got off easier than he did.
“If I could go back to that time, trading my story for a six-month suspension — what other people got. I got a death penalty, and they got six months,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s unfair necessarily; I’m saying it’s different.”
When Winfrey asked Armstrong if he was doing the interview only because he wants to compete again — he’s been banned from professional cycling for life — he replied that it was not.
But, he added, “If you are asking me do I want to compete again? The answer is hell yes. I’m a competitor. I love to train; I love to race. … And I don’t expect it to happen.”
Armstrong revealed that he actually can’t compete in any sanctioned event, say, the Chicago marathon or the Austin, Texas, 10K — two races he wishes he could take part in.
Meanwhile, Armstrong added that he owes a lot of apologies to people and is ready to do so when they are ready to hear them. To his supporters over the years, he would say: “I understand your anger, your sense of betrayal. You supported me forever through all of this, and you believed, and I lied to you, and I’m sorry.”
He added that he was humbled when all of his sponsors — over the course of a couple of days — began calling him to tell them they were dropping him. He said his financial loss as a result was about $75 million.
But the most humbling moment for Armstrong was when the people at Livestrong — the foundation that he started to support people affected by cancer — called him in October to say he should step down as chairman but stay on the board and then a couple of weeks called again to say, “We need you to step aside. … The foundation was like my sixth child. To have to make that decision, that was big. … It was the best thing for the organization, but it hurt like hell.” (The foundation issued a statement Thursday night saying it was “disappointed” in Armstrong.)
Armstrong also turned visibly emotional when Winfrey asked what he told his children. He said his 13-year-old son, Luke, would passionately defend his father and say the accusations weren’t true.
“He’d never said, ‘Dad is this true?’ He trusted me,” Armstrong said.
He said hearing that made him realize the time was right to tell his three oldest kids — Luke and 11-year-old twins Isabelle and Grace — the truth over the holidays.
“I said, ‘Listen, there have been a lot of questions about your did, my career, whether I doped or didn’t. I’ve always denied that, and I’ve been ruthless and defiant over that, which is why you trusted me’ — which makes it even sicker — ‘but I want you to know it’s true,'” he said.
He got emotional again when he revealed that he told his son: “Don’t defend me anymore. Don’t.” He told Luke, who was “remarkably calm and mature” after Armstrong told him the truth, to start telling people that “my dad says he’s sorry.” He added that if one of his kids began acting the way he has, he’d be “apoplectic.”
Winfrey also asked Armstrong about his tweet, sent after being banned from cycling, that featured a picture of himself surrounded by his seven framed yellow Tour de France jerseys. The tweet read: “Back in Austin and just layin’ around.”
Winfrey asked if he was just being “cocky” or “arrogant.”
“Yeah, that was another mistake,” he said. “That was just more defiance. And you know what’s scary is I actually thought it was a good idea at the time.”
Among Armstrong’s other revelations:
— He said the “angry guy who felt invincible” and that it was OK to lie about taking the banned substances and even be defiant is “still there.” But he’s hoping that his doing therapy will help.
–He doesn’t believe that taking the substances led to his getting cancer.
–He’s hoping his ban from cycling will be lifted but “realistically, I don’t think that’s gonna happen, and I have to live with that.”
–His mom is a “wreck” over everything that’s been going on.
–Even as bad as things are, it’s still not as bad as when he was diagnosed with cancer, he says. “That sets the bar. It’s close. But I’m an optimist, and I like to look forward. This has caused me to look back.”