Shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong wants to return to competitive sport, but says the driving force behind his belated doping confession was the well-being of his five children.
“The biggest hope and intention was the well-being of my children,” Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in the second segment of their televised interview that aired on Friday.
In the first instalment aired on Thursday, the 41-year-old Texan admitted for the first time that an array of performance-enhancing drugs helped sweep him to a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005.
“The older kids need to not be living with this issue in their lives,” Armstrong said. “That isn't fair for me to have done to them. And I did it.”
But Armstrong said if confession could help him regain a place in sport — in triathlons or marathons — he'd jump at it.
“Hell yes, I'm a competitor,” Armstrong said, adding that he didn't think he deserved the “death penalty” of a lifetime ban.
“Frankly, this may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it,” he said, telling Winfrey that former teammates who testified against him received lesser punishments.”
When Winfrey noted that virtually every article on the once revered cyclist now begins with the word “disgraced” Armstrong said he felt it fit.
“But I also feel humbled. I feel ashamed. This is ugly stuff,” he said.
“I'm deeply sorry for what I did. I can say that thousands of times and it may never be enough to get back.”
Thursday's first instalment of the interview was a ratings winner for Winfrey, with its estimated 3.2 million viewers in the United States making it the second-most-watched show ever on her fledgling OWN network.
However, it left many still sceptical of Armstrong's motives and methods, doubtful that he felt real remorse.
Genuine emotion seeped through on Friday. Armstrong's eyes reddened and his voice cracked as he described telling his 13-year-old son Luke: “Don't defend me anymore” when his transgressions at last caught up with him.
“When this all really started, 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,” Armstrong said.
“And he'd never asked me. He'd never said, ‘Dad, is this true?’ He trusted me.”
Armstrong recalled the days in October, after USADA released the report documenting its case against him, that led to his stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer charity he founded and then leaving the board entirely.
However, Armstrong denied he used drugs in his comeback from retirement in 2009 and 2010, saying he'd promised his ex-wife Kristin that he would “never cross that line again.”
He also denied USADA chief Travis Tygart's assertion in an interview last week that someone in Armstrong's camp offered the agency a $250,000 donation in what is seen as an attempt at a pay-off. — AFP