Banned Armstrong Says He Wants To Compete Again

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by Rebecca Bryan

LOS ANGELES, Jan 19, 2013 (AFP) – Shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong wants to
return to competitive sport, but says the driving force behind his belated
doping confession was the well-being of his five children.

“The biggest hope and intention was the well-being of my children,”
Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in the second segment of their
televised interview that aired on Friday.

In the first installment aired on Thursday, the 41-year-old Texan admitted
for the first time that an array of performance-enhancing drugs helped sweep
him to a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005.

Years of aggressive denials — including vitriolic attacks on those who
questioned him, collapsed last year when he was stripped of his Tour titles
and banned for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

“The older kids need to not be living with this issue in their lives,”
Armstrong said. “That isn’t fair for me to have done to them. And I did it.”

But Armstrong said that if confession could help him regain a place in
sport — in triathlons or marathons — he’d jump at it.

“Hell yes, I’m a competitor,” Armstrong said, adding that he didn’t think
he deserved the “death penalty” of a lifetime ban.

“Frankly, this may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve
it,” he said, telling Winfrey that former team-mates who implicated themselves
in testifying against him received lesser punishments.

“I deserve to be punished,” Armstrong said. “I’m not sure that I deserve a
death penalty.”

When Winfrey noted that virtually every article on the once revered cyclist
now begins with the word “disgraced” Armstrong said he felt it fit.

“But I also feel humbled. I feel ashamed. This is ugly stuff,” he said.
“I’m deeply sorry for what I did. I can say that thousands of times and it may
never be enough to get back.”

Thursday’s first installment of the interview was a ratings winner for
Winfrey, with its estimated 3.2 million viewers in the United States making it
the second-most-watched show ever on her fledgling OWN network.

However, it left many still skeptical of Armstrong’s motives and methods,
doubtful that he felt real remorse.

David Walsh, the journalist who almost single-handedly queried Armstrong’s
remarkable comeback from cancer, was one of those left cold by the interviews.

This despite Armstrong apologizing, when pressed to by Winfrey, for suing
the paper Walsh works for The Sunday Times for libel and winning £300,000
($480,000, 362,000 euros) in 2006 which the paper is now claiming back plus
costs.

“Watching part 2 of Armstrong interview, he admits to feeling shamed and
humbled. But why is it so difficult to empathize with his situation?” the
Irishman tweeted.

“Oprah pressured him, the apology was, I thought, hesitantly promised. I
didn’t ask for it, or expect it, but, yes, if its offered, I accept.”

His former rivals too generally shrugged their shoulders saying there was
nothing new in what he said.

Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck said from Australia, where he is competing, that
today’s riders would pay the price for the systematic doping undertaken by
Armstrong.

“I think it’s good for him, maybe it gets some weight off his shoulders,”
said Schleck, who was awarded the 2010 Tour de France when that year’s winner
Alberto Contador was done for doping.

“But I believe the sad thing about it is that cycling is going to pay the
price now, and it’s sad if we have to pay the price for it when we weren’t
even professionals 15 years ago.”

Genuine emotion seeped through on Friday. Armstrong’s eyes reddened and his
voice cracked as he described telling his 13-year-old son Luke: “Don’t defend
me anymore” when his transgressions at last caught up with him.

“When this all really started, I saw my son defending me and saying,
‘That’s not true. What you’re saying about my dad is not true.’

“That’s when I knew I had to tell him,” Armstrong said. “And he’d never
asked me. He’d never said, ‘Dad, is this true?’ He trusted me.”

He discussed the financial fallout, in particular the stampede of sponsors
away from him with sportswear giant Nike in the lead.

“You could look at the day or those two days or the day and a half where
people left,” he said. “That was a $75 million day.”

Armstrong’s admissions could carry legal repercussions.

The US Department of Justice is close to making a decision on whether to
add the government’s name to a complaint lodged in 2010 against Armstrong by
former fellow US Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis.

The Postal Service, a federal agency, paid $30 million in public money to
sponsor Armstrong’s team — and may now seek to get it back.

Armstrong denied USADA chief Travis Tygart’s assertion in a “60 Minutes
Sports” interview last week that someone in Armstrong’s camp offered the
agency a $250,000 donation in what could be seen as an attempt at a pay-off.

“That’s not true,” Armstrong said, noting that it wasn’t in USADA’s
official case against him.

But the cheating, the lying, the bullying — all true, and Armstrong said
the “ultimate betrayal” was of the people who believed in him.

“I do not know the outcome here,” he said when asked about the future. “And
I’m getting comfortable with that.”

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