Lance Armstrong reveals only regret
FOR a man who lost so much from doping - lost millions, lost the respect and adoration of legions of fans around the world, even lost control of the Livestrong charity he founded - Lance Armstrong has surprisingly few regrets.
In fact, as he repeatedly says in ESPN's upcoming documentary 'LANCE', "I wouldn't change a thing."
He would do it all again, he says. That includes doping from the age of 21, his first professional season, all the way through his record seven-consecutive Tour de France titles.
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He wouldn't change a thing, despite fearing his doping could have contributed to the testicular cancer which almost claimed his life in 1996.
"I certainly wouldn't say no (doping wasn't a factor in my cancer)," Armstrong said.
"The only thing I'll tell you is the only time in my life I ever did growth hormone was the 1996 season.
"So in my head, growth, growing hormone and cells - if anything good needs to be grown it does. But wouldn't it also make sense if there is anything bad in there it, too, would grow?"
Armstrong also revealed he lied '10,000 times' to cover up his doping habit.
"Nobody dopes and is honest," he said in the documentary.
"You're not. The only way you can dope and be honest is if nobody ever asks you, which is not realistic.
"The second somebody asks you, you lie. It might be one lie because you answer it once. Or in my case it might be 10,000 lies because you answer it 10,000 times."
It took until 2012 - two decades after he first doped - for the lies to finally come crashing down.
Former teammates and co-workers had turned witness and revealed the industrial-scale level of systematic doping that underpinned Armstrong's miraculous years of glory from 1999 to 2005 when he was untouchable in cycling's greatest race.
His long list of sponsors, starting with an ultra-lucrative deal with Nike, walked away from the embattled American, despite his refusal to budge from the insistence that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Millions of sponsorship dollars disappeared in a matter of hours.
"All gone in 48 hours, like that," Lance waves for the camera. "Gone."
But then the ever-defiant personality shines through. Lance pulls out his favourite line.
"I wouldn't change a thing; I work for myself now."
It took until 2013 and an interview with Oprah - of all people - for Lance to finally reveal the truth.
He had rejected countless opportunities to come clean, none less than when facing a legal case from the US Anti-Doping Agency. They had offered him the same thing they had to his teammates: an extremely reduced penalty that amounted to a get-out-of-jail-free card.
He turned down that chance, though it would end up costing him $5 million in a settlement sealed years later.
Lance doesn't regret fighting the case.
"I wouldn't change a thing. I don't wish I had made a deal," he said.
There were three outcomes from his doping, he says. One was he was never investigated or caught, and he would have got away with it. The second was to cut a deal - to avoid jail, admit he'd done wrong and get away with 'a pass', he says.
But he chose a third option, chose to fight. "Nope, f*** you, I'm going to kick your ass. Bring it on. And I lose everything."
Sponsors walked. Even his Livestrong foundation exiled him, something which still rankles the Texan.
Even so: "I'm gonna say it again. I wouldn't change a thing."
"Option one and option two don't get me to the place where I am today, sitting right here.
"I needed a f*****g nuclear meltdown and I got it."
But there is one regret. Not doping, but the way he treated those who questioned his lies. The way he doggedly bullied journalists, fellow cyclists and their wives, and even teammates and co-workers.
Armstrong's first triathlon coach, Rick Crawford, told ESPN he saw Lance's bullying habits from "day one" - when the future great was just 14.
Armstrong became a cycling superstar, capable of using his connections and his stature to ruin lives. He called a former masseuse and personal assistant a 'whore' after she bore witness to his doping.
He allegedly ensured a disenfranchised former teammate Floyd Landis was caught doping by pressuring cycling authorities, leading to Landis being stripped of a recent Tour de France win.
He dragged another ex-teammate and his wife through the mud - for over a decade - after she revealed she had heard Lance telling a doctor about his extensive doping while undergoing treatment for cancer.
That's merely the start of the many stories of his bullying, which would take far more than two 90-minute episodes to fully document.
All the while, he was lying - even using his former cancer experience to claim he was innocent of doping. For who, Lance said, would go from the brink of death and return to cycling and to doping? Who would knowingly risk his second chance at life?
That approach is something he regrets - or at least thinks was foolish.
"I do think, I'll admit, I used cancer occasionally as a shield, which is just f*****g stupid," he said.
"In hindsight, cycling and cancer should've been kept separate."
And so, to his regret - and to an apology from a man for whom apologies were a distinct rarity.
"With regards to how I carried myself as the leader of a sport, leader of a cause and leader of all these communities, it's inexcusable," he said.
"Totally inappropriate behaviour, totally took advantage of my stature.
"For that I'm deeply sorry. I wish I could change that and could have been a better man.
"All I can do is say I'm sorry and move on. And hope that others do, too."
So he has regrets - however few. But not enough to keep him up at night.
"It comes to: How do you sleep at night? Can you live with yourself? And I can."
WATCH PART 1 OF LANCE ON ESPN ON KAYO FROM 9PM MONDAY.