Lance Armstrong has spoken for the first time since confessing that he doped to win the Tour de France, answering a series of questions put to him by Cyclingnews.
Armstrong reiterated that he feels a scapegoat for the doping issues that have dogged cycling but has called for WADA to set up a truth and reconciliation programme and states that the UCI should have no part in the process.
In this exclusive Q&A Armstrong tells Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson that “My generation was no different than any other. The 'help' has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard, the Tour was invented as a 'stunt, and very tough mother f**kers have competed for a century and all looked for advantages.”
Cyclingnews: What was your family's reaction to your confession?
Lance Armstrong: They were well aware of what I was doing and going to say. They loved the interview. I was in Hawaii when it aired but my older kids and Kristin watched both nights live. We spoke immediately after both shows. What was said then I'll keep to myself.
CN: Did you protect Dr. Ferrari during your confession?
Armstrong: I wasn't 'protecting' anyone. I was there to speak about myself, my experiences, and my mistakes. No one else. I know that goes against what we have grown used to in the last few years in cycling but I'm only interested in owning up to my mistakes. I'm a big boy and I'm not in the blame game.
CN: Why do you believe that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is the best way forward for cycling?
Armstrong: It's not the best way, it's the only way. As much as I'm the eye of the storm this is not about one man, one team, one director. This is about cycling and to be frank it's about ALL endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem.
CN: When and why did you come to this conclusion?
Armstrong: A long time ago. When I was on speaking terms with ol' Pat McQuaid many, many months ago I said, 'Pat, you better think bold here. A full blown, global, TRC is our sports best solution.' He wanted to hear nothing of it.
CN: If a TRC is to work, who should be called to testify? Every rider from your generation or those from before too? If a TRC looks at the 1990s shouldn't it also look at the years before your first Tour win?
Armstrong: It's not my place to set the parameters but if you're asking, I'd say that if you are alive today and you podiumed in a GT, WC, or Grand Tour then you should be called. Sounds ambitious but the authorities have proven that nothing with regards to cycling is time barred.
CN: Does TRC need to provide a complete amnesty?
Armstrong: Of course otherwise no one will show up. No one.
CN: Truth is easy to explain but what sort of reconciliation would you like personally and for others that help/testify?
Armstrong: Let's be honest, folks in my situation have their own selfish reasons. It's why we are here. Floyd felt singled out so therefore he went public amongst other things. Removing my selfishness, the fact remains that is the best thing for cycling.
CN: Would you hope that your ban was reduced if you testified to WADA?
Armstrong: That's irrelevant. What is relevant is that everyone is treated equally and fairly. We all made the mess, let's all fix the mess, and let's all be punished equally.
CN: Why WADA and not USADA?
Armstrong: No brainer. This is a global sport not an American one. One thing I'd add - the UCI has no place at the table.
CN: What's the alternative to TRC? It looks like the sport is now descending into chaos.
Armstrong: The alternative? Well, first let me say that cycling will never die it will just simmer. Zero growth. Sponsors leaving, races cancelled - this we are seeing. This current state of chaos and petty bullshit, tit for tat, etc, will just ensure that cycling goes flat or negative for a decade plus. Which is a real shame for the current crop of young pros the sport has.
CN: What do you say to the theory that Tygart stated: 'That for you, it's about eligibility to compete?'
Armstrong: That was Travis' stunt to make me look self-serving. When I met with him I told him, 'Yes, of course, I'd love to compete again. I'm a competitor.' However the truth is that it was more about equality and fairness. Letting some race the season then giving minor off seasons sanctions versus the death penalty (for similar offences) isn't fair and isn't about 'cleaning up cycling'. It's about getting your man.
CN: It's pretty clear to anyone with a brain that the UCI played the game and knew the score, yet Pat McQuaid said you had no place in cycling. How did that make you feel? What do you think of the UCI?
Armstrong: Pat is just in constant CYA (Cover Your Ass) mode. Pathetic.
CN: How much is the current level of hypocrisy a frustration for you?
Armstrong: Of course it's frustrating but it's cycling so it's not surprising.
CN: Do you feel like you're the fall guy for an entire sport/system?
Armstrong: Actually, yes I do. But I understand why. We all make the beds we sleep in.
CN: When you came into the sport, it probably wasn't to dope, it wasn't to cheat but at what point, specifically, did you realize that was how cycling worked and that the governing body weren't dealing with the situation?
Armstrong: My generation was no different than any other. The 'help' has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard, the Tour was invented as a 'stunt, and very tough mother f**kers have competed for a century and all looked for advantages. From hopping on trains a 100 years ago to EPO now. No generation was exempt or 'clean'. Not Merckx's, not Hinault's, not LeMond's, not Coppi's, not Gimondi's, not Indurain's, not Anquetil's, not Bartali's, and not mine.