Disgraced American former road cyclist Lance Armstrong said he would be the "first man at the door" in efforts to clean up the sport after telling Oprah Winfrey that he relied on banned substances for most of his career and to win all of his Tour de France titles.
After long denying doping and saying in recent months that he was the victim of a "witch hunt" by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart, the 41-year-old Armstrong came clean in a prime-time interview aired Thursday night on Winfrey's OWN cable channel.
Armstrong confessed that he had lied for years about his PED use and launched numerous legal attacks against those who threatened his once-pristine reputation, telling Oprah that he was a "bully."
But the cyclist said his use of EPO and other substances did not give him an unfair advantage but rather put him on an equal footing with his competitors.
He did not name names during the interview, but he said that in his opinion it would have been impossible to win any of the seven consecutive Tours he won from 1999 to 2005 without doping.
Those titles were subsequently stripped away after Armstrong last year refused to fight doping allegations compiled by USADA, but the International Cycling Union, or UCI, decided in October not to award the titles to the second-place finishers of those races.
USADA said the charges against Armstrong were based on evidence provided by "numerous witnesses" who said they had either personally observed Armstrong's "doping activity" or learned directly from the cyclist about his use of "EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005."
In Thursday's interview, Armstrong said he used PEDs as part of a larger doping culture in cycling but said he would like to help get drugs out of the sport.
"I love cycling ... if there was an effort to (clean up cycling), if there was a truth and reconciliation commission - and I can't call for that; I've got no cred - if they have it, and I'm invited, I'll be the first man at the door," Armstrong told Winfrey.
A cancer survivor who is regarded as one of the all-time greatest road cyclists, Armstrong issued a statement on his Web site after choosing not to appear before a USADA arbitration panel to respond to the doping charges.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'enough is enough.' For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," the Aug. 23 statement read.
"The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors," Armstrong said then.
Armstrong has lost lucrative endorsement contracts as a result of the scandal and in October he stepped down from the board of directors of the cancer-fighting Livestrong Foundation he founded in 1997. EFE