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Last updated: January 19, 2013 11:19 pm
Lance Armstrong’s doping confession is the beginning of a long and painful road to redemption not for the disgraced former cyclist himself but for cycling, with consequences for sport as a whole.
It looks inconceivable that the 41-year-old Texan, already stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life, can find a route back into competitive sport.
He wants to compete again in triathlon, which is said to be the main reason behind his decision to confess to a career of systematic drug-taking.
But the instinctive response of the sporting world and those involved in anti-doping to the first part of his Oprah Winfrey interview was to give him not a shred of comfort for his admission.
“If he was looking for redemption, he did not succeed in getting that,” John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, told the Associated Press.
Athletes from other sports willingly denounced the man who was once the standard-bearer of cycling. World tennis number one Novak Djokovic said Mr Armstrong “should suffer for his lies all these years”.
The confession threw a light on sport’s dark and troubled hinterland. The “ruthless win-at-all-costs attitude” that he identified in himself is a characteristic familiar to sports fans – a trait some even admire in certain circumstances.
But Mr Armstrong admitted he became a bully, had a warped definition of cheating and became oblivious to the idea that he was held to a higher standard than others.
Doping made him feel sure of winning those Tour de France titles. “There was more happiness in the process, in the build, in the preparation. The winning was almost phoned in,” he said.
Such a mentality caused him to ride roughshod over people around him. They will not forget it.
Betsy Andreu, wife of a former teammate who was vocal about his doping, told CNN: “After what you’ve done to me, after what you’ve done to my family, and you couldn’t own up to it. And now we’re supposed to believe you? You have one chance at the truth, this is it.”
Instead of preparing for a new sporting career, Mr Armstrong must confront a host of claimants seeking recovery of what British cycling president Brian Cookson called his “ill-gotten gains”.
If he was looking for redemption, he did not succeed in getting that
- John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency
SCA Promotions, a Texan company that sold insurance to Mr Armstrong’s US Postal Services team covering bonus payments should he win the Tour de France, was pleased that he had “finally come clean”.
But Jeff Dorough, general counsel, said it had suffered “years of vilification” over its claim for damages of at least $12m, and would “continue to pursue our legal options for the return of the prize amounts . . . paid . . . under fraudulent circumstances”.
The unravelling of Armstrong will be felt across sport. The fight against doping may even be strengthened by his unmasking.
“It’s not a bad thing for the anti-doping cause,” said David Howman, World Anti-Doping Agency chief executive. “A very high-profile athlete has admitted to doping. It throws a spotlight on the issue and it also proves that no matter how big an athlete you are, eventually you will get caught.”
Armstrong lost $75m a day during height of scandal
In the second instalment of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong said he lost much of his future income and lost $75m in one day when his sponsors severed ties with him.
“All gone and probably never coming back,” he said. He denied that trying to get a reduced ban and getting back into sport, thus recouping some of the income, was the main reason for coming clean.
Mr Armstrong said it was the constant lying to his children that motivated him to finally come clean about his cheating throughout his cycling career. “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,” he said.
Mr Armstrong showed some emotion on Friday night, tearing up when discussing his family. Critics noted the lack of emotion and some callous comments after the first night’s confession.
When Ms Winfrey asked him if he has regrets and if he deserved the punishments he received, Mr Armstrong appeared contrite.
“Do I have remorse? Absolutely. Will it grow? Absolutely. This is the first step and these are my actions. I am paying the price but I deserve it.”
Additional reporting by Emily Steel in New York
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