Lifetime ban is ‘death penalty,’ says Armstrong
By Julian Linden
NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong says he received the sporting equivalent of the “death penalty” for using performance-enhancing drugs and lying about it, but he hopes his lifetime ban will one day be overturned so that he can compete again.
In the second and final part of a televised interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey broadcast on Friday, Armstrong conceded he deserved to be punished for years of doping that helped him win a record seven Tour de France titles.
But Armstrong said the penalty he was given by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was much harsher than the sanctions dished out to other self-confessed cheats, who were given lesser sentences for testifying against him.
“I am not saying that’s unfair, I’m saying it is different,” he said. “I deserve to be punished but I am not sure I deserve the death penalty.”
The 41-year-old said he had no ambitions to return to professional cycling but wanted to be able to compete in sanctioned events like the Chicago marathon.
“With this penalty, this punishment, I made my bed,” he said. “Would I love to run the Chicago marathon when I am 50? I would love to do that but I can’t.”
Struggling at times to control his emotions, Armstrong admitted he was ashamed of what he had done and that he felt remorse.
He was closest to tears recalling the moment he told his children that the accusations against him were true.
“I saw my son (Luke) defending me and saying, ‘That’s not true’ … that’s when I knew I had to tell him. He never asked me, ‘Dad is this true?’ He trusts me,” Armstrong said.
“I said, ‘Listen, there’s been a lot questions about your dad, did I dope and did not dope? … I want you to know that it is true’.
“I told Luke, ‘Don’t defend me anymore … if anyone says anything to you do not defend, just say, hey my dad said he was sorry.’”
Already banned for life and stripped of all his race wins, including his seven Tour de France wins, Armstrong said he lost about $75 million when his sponsors deserted him last year after the USADA released its damning report on him.
But the 41-year-old Texan said the lowest moment came when he had to quit the Livestrong cancer foundation he started.
“That was most humbling moment,” he said.
“(I was asked) to step down as chairman. A couple of weeks later the next call came – I was asked to step aside. That was the lowest.”