In a no-holds-barred interview with Oprah Winfrey, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted to years of doping while riding professionally, arguing that performance-enhancing drugs are essential to succeed in the sport.
Wasting no time in the sit-down, Winfrey asked Armstrong right off the bat if he had ever used banned substances during his career. During a series of rapid-fire yes or no questions, the retired cyclist confirmed that blood transfusions and EPO usage was common during his career, particularly during all seven of his Tour de France victories.
When asked if he believed it was humanly possible to achieve his seven consecutive wins without doping, Armstrong replied: "Not in my opinion."
In the end, Armstrong refused to out any of his fellow cyclists in the interview. Rather, he blamed the culture of professional cycling for creating a need for underground doping in the sport. Despite this, the 41-year-old athlete took personal responsibility for his disgrace, telling Winfrey that, at the time, he didn't feel he was cheating, but now understands the magnitude of his actions.
"I see the anger in people," said Armstrong of fans' reaction to his drug use. "These are people that supported me and believed in me… They have every right to feel betrayed and it's my fault. I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people."
Shortly after the interview aired, the LIVESTRONG foundation, a charity Armstrong began 15 years ago but stepped down from in 2012 amid doping accusations, released the following statement in response to the cyclist's confession:
"We at the LIVESTRONG Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us. Earlier this week, Lance apologized to our staff and we accepted his apology in order to move on and chart a strong, independent course. We look forward to devoting our full energy to our mission of helping people not only fight and survive cancer, but also thrive in life after cancer.
"Even in the wake of our disappointment, we also express our gratitude to Lance as a survivor for the drive, devotion and spirit he brought to serving cancer patients and the entire cancer community. Lance is no longer on the Foundation’s board, but he is our founder and we will always be grateful to him for creating and helping to build a Foundation that has served millions struggling with cancer.
"The LIVESTRONG Foundation is one of the most highly-rated and effective cancer organizations in the United States. Our success has never been based on one person – it’s based on the patients and survivors we serve every day, who approach a cancer diagnosis with hope, courage and perseverance. We listened to their needs and took action to create free cancer support services that offer access to clinical trials, fertility preservation, insurance coverage and even transportation to treatment. People living with and through cancer are the inspiration behind our work. They have been, are and always will be our focus."
Last year, a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency led to Armstrong's downfall. The shamed cyclist was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and, until now, vehemently maintained his innocence.
Tonight's interview was only part one of Winfrey's explosive sit-down. Part two, which delves into Armstrong's reasons for agreeing to come clean (among other things), airs tomorrow night on OWN.