Armstrong calls competition ban ‘death penalty’

Washington – Lance Armstrong questioned the justice of his lifetime ban from competitive sports, calling it “a death penalty” in an interview with television talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

“I deserve to be punished,” he said in yesterday’s second part of the interview. “I’m not sure I deserve a death penalty,” he continued, comparing his lifetime ban to the six-month bans placed on co-riders who doped with him and then testified against him.

Armstrong (41) said “hell yes” when asked if he would like to compete again, “but that isn’t why I’m doing this.”

He also said he does not expect the lifetime ban to be overturned.

His comments came a day after he confessed to Winfrey that he had used banned substances to enhance his performances en route to seven Tour de France titles, after more than a decade of denial.

He said it was impossible, in his opinion, to win the race without using illegal substances.

“My cocktail was only EPO, not a lot of it, transfusions and testosterone,” said Armstrong, who apologised for his actions in the first part of the interview.

“Using banned substances was like having air in our tyres or water in the bottle. It was part of our job.”

His appearance met with mixed reactions and he was criticised for failing to provide details of his doping regimen, as well as for appearing aloof and arrogant.

In Friday’s broadcast, Armstrong appeared close to tears when describing how he had to tell his 13-year-old son that he had taken banned substances.

“I told Luke, ‘Don’t defend me anymore ... if anyone says anything to you do not defend, just say, hey my dad said he was sorry.”

He also spoke emotionally about the day when he was asked to step down from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded.

“That was the most humbling moment,” he said. “(I was asked) to step down as chairman. A couple of weeks later the next call came – I was asked to step aside. That was the lowest.”

Armstrong estimated the fallout from the doping scandal had cost him about $75 million in lost commercial opportunities and sponsorships.

“I don’t like to think about it but that was a 75-million-dollar day,” he told Winfrey.

Earlier yesterday, the international cycling organisation UCI welcomed his admission, while the International Olympic Committee spoke of “a very sad day for sport” amid criticism that he failed to reveal how the doping programme worked and name others who were part of the scheme.

On Thursday, Armstrong was stripped of his Olympic bronze medal from the 2000 games in the wake of his earlier disqualification by UCI and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year after declining to contest USADA charges against him, and was dropped from multimillion dollar sponsorship contracts by Nike, Oakley and Trek.

Armstrong apologised for his deception but maintained that he never made any of his teammates take illegal substances, while acknowledging that he may have exerted pressure on them.

“I never forced anyone,” he said. “I was the leader of the team and the leader of the team leads by example.”

USADA chief Travis Tygart said Armstrong’s confession was only “a small step in the right direction.

“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,” Tygart said.

International Olympic Committee vice-president Thomas Bach took a similar stance.

“If he loves cycling as much as he says he does, and if he really wants to restore his credibility, then he must be ready to testify under oath before the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA or the US Anti-Doping Agency USADA,” Bach told dpa.

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