Banned cyclist Lance Armstrong talks to Oprah Winfrey about performance… (George Burns / AFP / Getty…)
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.
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.
Regret coming back? Winfrey asked.
“I do,” he said. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t come back.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“I did,” he said.
Posted at 7:01 PST
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."
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.
"No … scary," Armstrong said.
"No, even scarier."
View it as cheating?
"The definition of cheating is to gain an advantage on a foe," Armstrong said. "I viewed it as a level playing field."
But you’re Lance Armstrong, Winfrey said.
"I know, but hindsight is 20/20," he said. "I didn’t know what I had."
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