Lance Armstrong admitted it. He did it. He doped.
He didn't provide a lot of details and didn't name names. He mused that were it not for his comeback in 2009, he might not have been caught. And he was all but sure his "fate was sealed" when training partner, longtime friend and trusted lieutenant George Hincapie, who was along for the ride on each of Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005, was forced to give him up to anti-doping authorities.
Right from the beginning and more than 25 times during the first of a two-part interview Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey, the shamed former cycling champion admitted what he had lied about constantly for years, and what had been rumored about for nearly a week: He was the leader of an elaborate doping scheme on a U.S. Postal Service team that launched him to the No. 1 spot of the Tour de France seven times.
Wearing a blue sport coat and open-collar shirt, Armstrong was direct and matter-of-fact, neither contrite nor pained. There were very few laughs and no tears. He consistently looked straight ahead.
Whether his televised confession will hurt or help Armstrong's damaged reputation and his defense in two pending lawsuits, and maybe a third, remains to be seen. In either case, a story that seemed too good to be true – cancer survivor comes back to capture one of sport's most grueling events seven consecutive times – was shown to be just that.
Winfrey charged the subject matter head-on, asking for yes-or-no responses to five questions.
Did Armstrong take banned substances? "Yes."
Was one of those EPO? "Yes."
Did he do blood doping and use transfusions? "Yes."
Did he use testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone? "Yes."
Did he take banned substances or blood dope in all of his Tour wins? "Yes."
While rumors swirled about the notion of Armstrong doping, he cast aside teammates who questioned his tactics, swore he raced clean and attempted to silence anyone who said otherwise. Relentless, ruthless and rich enough to settle any score, his reach seemed boundless – the court of public opinion, along the roads of his sport's most prestigious race, and even courtrooms.
That relentless pursuit was one of the things that Armstrong said he regretted most.
"It's a major flaw, and it's a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. And it's inexcusable."