NEW YORK — Lance Armstrong finally confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career on Thursday night, admitting he cheated to win all seven of his Tour de France titles.
Describing himself as a “bully” and a “deeply flawed character,’’ Armstrong ended years of denials by revealing his darkest secrets in an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey at his hometown of Austin, Texas.
In the opening question of the televised interview recorded three days earlier, one word was all it took to dismiss any remaining doubt his success on the bike was fueled by doping.
“Yes,’’ he replied when asked directly whether he used performance-enhancing drugs.
True to her word, Winfrey rapidly fired probing questions at Armstrong, offering him little respite and grilling him about every aspect of his tainted career.
Without any hesitation, and showing no signs of emotion, Armstrong replied "yes" to a series of questions about whether he used specific drugs, including erythropoietin, human growth hormone, and blood doping.
Asked why he had repeatedly lied about using banned substances until Thursday's startling admission, he told Winfrey: "I don't know I have a great answer.
“This is too late, probably for most people, and that's my fault. I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times.
“It's not as if I said no and moved off it. While I've lived through this process, I know the truth. The truth isn't what I said and now it's gone.”
A cancer survivor who inspired millions with what had seemed like a fairytale career, Armstrong said he did not believe he could have achieved what he did without breaking the rules due to the culture of drugs in cycling.
“Not in that generation,’’ he said. “I didn't invent the culture, but I didn't try to stop the culture.
“It's hard to talk about the culture. I don't want to accuse anyone else. I'm here to acknowledge my mistakes.’’
He said he never considered himself to be a cheat and was sure he would get away with it, until out of competition tests were introduced and testing procedures improved.
The last time he cheated was in 2005, when he won his seventh Tour de France on the streets on Paris. He made a comeback in 2009 but said he never used drugs again.
“I looked up the definition of a cheat to gain an advantage. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field," he said.
USADA chief Travis Tygart, who pursued the case against Armstrong when others had stopped, said the cyclist’s confession was just a start.
‘‘Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit,’’ Tygart said. ‘‘His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.’’
Armstrong's admission came just months after the US Anti-Doping Agency released a detailed report describing him as the ringmaster of the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’’