Armstrong Told Kids: "Don't Defend Me Anymore"

Armstrong grew emotional when he recalled in an interview with Oprah the day he came clean to his children.

Saturday, Jan 19, 2013  |  Updated 2:14 AM EDT
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Key Moments of the Lance Armstrong Doping Scandal

AP

Armstrong said he wants to return to cycling, but understands that may never happen. "I made my bed," he said.

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Lance Armstrong, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Friday night, swatted away the idea that he had only confessed to doping to be able to return to cycling, though he added that he thinks he should be granted another chance.

"I think I deserve it," the disgraced cyclist told Oprah Winfrey in the final segment of a two-part interview taped earlier in the week. "Maybe not now," he added.

Picking up where he left off in the segment that aired Thursay night, Armstrong repeated his desire to return to competition but insisted that the true intention behind his mission to come clean was to free his five children from the weight of his scandal.

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Growing emotional, he recalled breaking the news to his children from his first marriage—a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old twin daughters—that the rumors they heard in school and on the internet, that their father was a cheater, were in fact true.

"I said, if anybody says anything to you ... if some kid says something to you, do not defend me," he said. "Just say, hey, my dad said he was sorry."

He knew it was time to tell them the truth when he saw his oldest son Luke defending him on the internet.

"That's when I knew I had to tell him. And he had never asked me. He never said, Dad, is this true? He trusted me." Armstrong said, pausing as tears welled in his eyes.

He had that talk with them over the holidays, he said.

His most humbling moment on his fall from grace, however, came when was asked by his Livestrong cancer foundation to consider stepping down from his chairmanship and later the board, the cyclist said.

"The foundation is like my sixth child and to make that decision and to step aside—that was a big deal," he said.

For anti-doping officials, his admissions to Oprah are just the beginning. Now they want him to give details — lots of them — to clean up his sport.

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While his confession made for riveting television, if the former cycling icon wants to take things further, it will involve several long days in meetings with anti-doping officials who have very specific questions: Who ran the doping programs, how were they run and who looked the other way.

"He didn't name names," World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey told The Associated Press in Australia. "He didn't say who supplied him, what officials were involved."

In the 90-minute interview Thursday Armstrong said he started doping in the mid-1990s, using the blood booster EPO, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone, as well as engaging in outlawed blood doping and transfusions. The doping regimen, he said, helped him in all seven of his Tour de France wins.

His openness about his own transgressions, however, did not extend to allegations about other people. "I don't want to accuse anybody," he said.

But he might have to name names if he wants to gain anything from his confession, at least from anti-doping authorities.

Armstrong has been stripped of all his Tour de France titles and banned for life. A reduction of the ban, perhaps to eight years, could allow him to compete in triathlons in 2020, when he's 49.

Those in cycling and anti-doping circles believe it will take nothing short of Armstrong turning over everything he knows to stand any chance of cutting a deal to reduce his ban.

"We're left wanting more. We have to know more about the system," Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme told the AP. "He couldn't have done it alone. We have to know who in his entourage helped him to do this."

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U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart, who will have the biggest say about whether Armstrong can return to competition, also called his confession 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," he said.

Pierre Bordry, the head of the French Anti-Doping Agency from 2005-10, said there was nothing to guarantee that Armstrong isn't still lying and protecting others.

"He's going in the right direction, but with really small steps," Bordry said. "He needs to bring his testimony about the environment and the people who helped him. He should do it before an independent commission or before USADA and that would no doubt help the future of cycling."

It's doubtful Armstrong could get the same kind of leniency today as he might have had he chosen to cooperate with USADA during its investigation. But in an attempt to rid cycling of the doping taint it has carried for decades, USADA, WADA and the sport's governing body aren't satisfied with simply stopping at its biggest star. They still seek information about doctors, team managers and high-ranking executives.

Tyler Hamilton, whose testimony helped lead to Armstrong's downfall, says if Armstrong is willing to provide information to clean up the sport, a reduction in the sanctions would be appropriate, even if it might be hard to stomach after watching USADA's years of relentless pursuit of the seven-time Tour de France winner.

"The public should accept that," Hamilton said. "I'm all for getting people to come clean and tell the truth. I'm all for doctors, general managers and everyone else coming forward and telling the truth. I'm all for anyone who crossed the line coming forward and telling the truth. No. 1, they'll feel better personally. The truth will set you free."

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been accused of protecting Armstrong and covering up positive tests, something Armstrong denied to Winfrey.

"I am pleased that after years of accusations being made against me, the conspiracy theories have been shown to be nothing more than that," said Hein Verbruggen, the president of the UCI from 1991-2005. "I have no doubt that the peddlers of such accusations and conspiracies will be disappointed by this outcome."

But Verbruggen was among the few who felt some closure after the first part of Armstrong's interview with Winfrey. The second was set for Friday night.

Most of the comments either urged him to disclose more, or felt it was too little, too late.

"There's always a portion of lies in what he says, in my opinion," retired cyclist and longtime Armstrong critic Christophe Bassons said. "He stayed the way I thought he would: cold, hard. He didn't let any sentiment show, even when he spoke of regrets. Well, that's Lance Armstrong. He's not totally honest even in his so-called confession. I think he admits some of it to avoid saying the rest."

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