The apology Lance Armstrong will never give
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012
Lance Armstrong has not made any public comments after his seven Tour de France titles were taken away on Monday. FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
Hello, everybody, and thanks for coming today. I know a lot of you never thought I would do this. Well, I never thought I would do this, either.
My name is Lance Armstrong, and I love cycling. When I was young my anger and desire would overwhelm me when I competed, a blinding rage, and I could barely control it. I had a rough childhood, and cycling was my escape. I was a triathlon champion as a teenager, and I was the world road race champion at 21, and I came to Europe and watched Miguel Indurain pedal away from me like I was a kid. That was the 1994 Tour de France. He kicked my ass.
Then everybody started to kick my ass. EPO came in, and guys were so much stronger, so much faster. I could win one-day races, but I wasn’t the greatest climber, and I had to withdraw in three of my first four attempts at the Tour; the other time, I finished 36th. I wanted to be great, so I faced the same decision every other cyclist in the last 15 years faced: you dope, or you get dropped. That was the choice. It’s like my former friend Levi Leipheimer put it: this sport breaks your heart, bit by bit.
Well, I don’t regret my decision the way those other guys did. I needed to be the best, and you couldn’t be the best and be clean in this sport. So I doped. And after I beat cancer I needed cycling more than ever, so I kept going. I doped better than anybody — I got better information, I got the best doctors, I pushed the envelope even though EPO killed a bunch of pro cyclists in the 1980s and 1990s. There was no other way. I built a machine to take on pro cycling, and I destroyed fields full of guys who were as dirty as I was. I don’t apologize for that.
I’m sorry I had to dope to be great, but this problem didn’t start with me, and didn’t end with me. So while I accept my lifetime ban, I call on the UCI and WADA and the USADA to agree to a one-time truth and reconciliation commission, to allow other riders to tell the truth without fear of repercussions. The sport created us; the sport needs to let us talk about it.
That being said, there are some things I’m sorry for. I’m sorry I ran Christophe Bassons, one of the sport’s truly noble men, out of the Tour in 1999 for daring to say that you couldn’t reach a top 10 at the Tour without doping. I’m sorry for attacking Frankie and Betsy Andreu for being in the hospital room with me in 1996 when I admitted to the doctors that I had used EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids. I’m sorry I sued our former soigneur, Emma O’Reilly, who wouldn’t back down from the truth. I’m sorry I called her a prostitute, and a drunk.
I’m sorry for attacking journalists like David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, who is still being sued by the UCI in what is as unconscionable a lawsuit as even I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry I told Christian Vande Velde to dope or get dropped from the team, and I’m sorry I allowed David Zabriskie to dope, because he got into cycling to escape his drug-addict father, the way I used it to pedal away from my absent father and my abusive stepfather and the emptiness of Plano, Texas. I’m sorry David broke down and cried the night he agreed to go against everything he believed in.
Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles on Monday. Morne de Klerk/Getty Images
I’m sorry for sending a text message to Levi Leipheimer’s wife Odessa after I found out he was testifying that said, “Run, don’t walk.” I’m sorry I threatened to blackmail Greg LeMond. I’m sorry for painting Floyd Landis as an unbalanced lunatic, and for telling Tyler Hamilton in an Aspen restaurant that I would make his life a living hell. I’m sorry that the International Cycling Union is so warped that its president, Pat McQuaid, called Landis and Hamilton “scumbags” on Monday. I’m sorry he was following my lead.
I’m sorry I lied so many times, and that I used cancer as a shield, and to make money. I’m sorry I said stuff like, “The people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics, the skeptics, I feel sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big and I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.” I’m sorry I hurt so many people through litigation, by bullying, by using my money and my prominence in cycling and my political connections to destroy their careers.
I’m sorry for painting Floyd Landis as an unbalanced lunatic, and for telling Tyler Hamilton in an Aspen restaurant that I would make his life a living hell
But all of this was the cover-up, not the crime, and I felt like I needed to do it to protect myself, and to protect what I was trying to do. The rage and desire consumed me again. I’m not sorry about Livestrong, because even if it doesn’t fund cancer research it provides hope, because I provide hope. Some people might say it diverts money away from the science of curing cancer, but I’m not sorry that those yellow bracelets became totems to a lot of people.
It’s like a guy named Michael Farber wrote in Sports Illustrated: he had been diagnosed with cancer, and while he was waiting in an oncologist’s office another guy took the bracelet off his wrist and handed it to him, and said, “Here.” And it gave that man hope, and hope matters. He’s in remission.
I’ll never apologize for giving people hope.
And this is going to cost me millions, personally, but the rest of my life is about one thing now; about continuing as a symbol of hope for people with cancer. That’s why I’m coming clean today, to protect that.
Because goddamnit, yeah, I doped. But I suffered on that bike, did anything I could on that bike, emptied myself on that bike. I pumped my veins full of whatever it took to win, no matter what it did to me, no matter what it cost. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like anything else to you?
Cycling was a lot like cancer to me. I faced overwhelming odds, and I beat them the only way I could. So I hope there’s a way for people to still look at me and feel their hearts lift a little, feel lightened, feel like anything is possible. After everything, that’s still important. After everything, that’s what I have left.