Lance Armstrong: I would cheat all over again
Armstrong believes he deserves his seven Tour titles from an 'imperfect time'
Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, has admitted that if he went back in time to the beginning of his career he would "probably do it again".
The Texan rider, who was given a lifetime ban from the sport by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in 2012, admitted in 2013 to having cheated during all his Tour triumphs. However, he says he was competing during "an imperfect time" and made the decisions that he felt he had to back then in order to survive.
"If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn't do it again because I don't think you have to," he told the BBC. "(But) if you take me back to 1995, when doping was completely pervasive, I would probably do it again. When I made the decision, when my team made that decision, when the whole peloton made that decision, it was a bad decision and an imperfect time. But it happened. And I know what happened because of that."
Armstrong, 43, said that he did not regret the impact his career had had on the sport or on his cancer foundation, Livestrong.
"I know what happened to the sport, I saw its growth," he said. "I know what happened to Trek Bicycles (his bike supplier) - $100 million in sales to $1 billion in sales. And I know what happened to my foundation, from raising no money to raising $500m, serving three million people. Do we want to take it away? I don't think anybody says 'yes'."
The American, who was accused by Usada of contributing to the "most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme sport had ever seen", said that the fallout from his confession on Oprah Winfrey's chat show in 2013 had been "heavy, tough, trying and required patience", but said he had "thinned out" his life and felt it was "getting close" to the time when he felt he could be reintegrated into public life. "Selfishly, I would say 'yeah', we're getting close to that time. But that's me, my word doesn't matter any more," he said.
"What matters is what people collectively - whether that's the cycling community, the cancer community - think. Listen, of course I want to be out of time out, what kid doesn't?"
His comments are timely given the forthcoming report from cycling's independent reform commission, CIRC, which has spent the past year investigating the sport's doping culture. The CIRC is empowered to offer reduced sanctions to people coming forward and, more significantly in the case of Armstrong, can recommend reductions in the cases of those already banned. It is due to report back to the UCI, cycling's world governing body, by the end of February.
Armstrong, who has cooperated with the commission, is hopeful that he will be allowed to "compete in some sport at a fairly high level", as well as raise money for charity.
He was prevented from riding in the George Hincapie Gran Fondo last October because the event was sanctioned by USA Cycling. But he believes that he has been singled out while former dopers such as Bjarne Riis and Alexandre Vinokourov are working in the sport.
He said: "It seems like people are thinking, 'OK, we've been through this for two years, we've heard all the stories, and it looks like we're going to hear even more stories with the report out of (CIRC). I get it, he did that, they all did that. How's that? Some guys get no punishment, some get six months, he got life, how does that add up?"
Armstrong said that he believed he should be given his seven Tour titles back. His titles were never reallocated since most of the riders were also guilty of doping. "I think there has to be a winner, I'm just saying that as a fan. I feel like I won those Tours."
He also said that if he could go back again he would want "to change the man that did those things, maybe not the decision, but the way he acted".
Armstrong was famously bullying, suing journalists who questioned his achievements and trying to destroy the careers of those who stood up to him. "It was unacceptable, inexcusable," he said, adding that he had been "an a------- to a dozen people". (©Daily Telegraph, London)