Major Takeaways from Oprah's Interview with Lance Armstrong

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2013

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 14:  In this handout photo provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah Winfrey (R) speaks with Lance Armstrong during an interview regarding the controversy surrounding his cycling career January 14, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  Oprah Winfrey’s exclusive no-holds-barred interview with Lance Armstrong, 'Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive,' has expanded to air as a two-night event on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.  The special episode of 'Oprah’s Next Chapter' will air Thursday, January 17 from 9-10:30 p.m. ET/PT (as previously announced) and Friday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on Oprah.com.  (Photo by George Burns/Oprah Winfrey Network via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Lance Armstrong cheated. He did so systematically, repeatedly and during each of his seven Tour de France championships. 

Armstrong admitted as much in an interview with Oprah Winfrey aired Thursday night, ending nearly a decade-and-a-half of lies, speculation and rumors about the cleanliness of his reign atop the cycling world. Though the interview hit on a number of topics, including the reasons why Armstrong lied, it was that admission in the opening moments that many had waited for.

But it was also easy to miss a few details while getting bogged down in the scope of Armstrong's wide-ranging admissions. The information was detailed—oftentimes overwhelmingly—and the takeaways from this session are enormous. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the biggest takeaways from part one of Oprah's interview with the disgraced cyclist.

Armstrong Admits to All PED Usage, Goes into Detail 

Starting the interview with successive "yes" or "no" questions, Oprah got the answers we've all longed for out of the way. During all of his seven Tour de France victories, Armstrong admitted to using all of the following: EPO (which increases red blood cell count and athletic performance), blood doping, blood transfusions and other banned substances, including testosterone.

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Armstrong followed up those admissions by saying he doesn't think he could have won his seven titles without using performance-enhancing drugs. Via Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch:

Lance-Oprah starts with a series of yes/no questions. Admits to doping. Says he could not have won seven titles without it.

— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 18, 2013

Going into further detail about his drug habits, Armstrong admitted that EPO, blood transfusions and testosterone were his go-to performance-enhancers—those specifically meant to aid athletes in endurance competition:

Armstrong: "My cocktail so to speak was EPO, transfusions and testosterone"

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 18, 2013

Lance Denies That He Doped After Comeback, Gives Start Date of Doping History

While most of the interview was focused on Armstrong's multiple Tour de France championships and his time with the United States Postal Service team, Oprah shortly delved into his post-winning career.

After retiring from cycling in 2005, Armstrong famously came back to much acclaim for Astana in 2009. Despite having taken off four full years from cycling, Armstrong stayed in contention throughout the 2009 Tour de France before finishing third.

Armstrong returned again the following year, and though he finished a less-successful 23rd, he did key Team RadioShack to an overall team victory.

As for whether he doped in those tours—as claimed by the USADA—Armstrong vehemently denied those claims, saying he was clean in both 2009 and 2010. From Jacquelin Magnay of The Telegraph:

Lance armstrong says 2005 was last time he doped, claims not to have doped in 2009 or 2010.

— Jacquelin Magnay (@jacquelinmagnay) January 18, 2013

Armstrong was more forthcoming with details regarding when his doping habits started. Affirming what the USADA had already claimed, Armstrong said that he began his doping regimen during the mid-1990s—before his cancer diagnosis and Tour de France victories (per Business Insider).

His initial doping period would place him right around the time he was with the Motorola Cycling Team, where his finishes in the Tour de France were rather nondescript. 

Lance Admits to Being a Bully, Talks About Specific Bullying Instances

While Armstrong would not admit to pressuring fellow riders into taking performance-enhancing drugs, there was a topic he was completely open on: bullying. Armstrong admitted that he was oftentimes a bully during his career, both to fellow riders and in his personal life when accused of PED use:

Oprah: "Were you a bully?" Lance: "Yeah, I was a bully."

— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 18, 2013

Of the many people Armstrong admitted that he "bullied," former U.S. Postal Service Team masseuse Emma O'Reilly may be the most notable.

O'Reilly told Sports Illustrated in 2011 that Armstrong had failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs during the 1999 Tour de France. In order to cover up the positive test, O'Reilly said the U.S. Postal Service Team got a backdated prescription for steroids from a doctor, citing "saddle sores." It was a claim that Armstrong completely denied—until his interview with Oprah.

Per Josh Levs of CNN, Armstrong admitted that the story about the backdated prescription was true:

Vindication for Emma O'Reilly: Lance Armstrong admits the story she told about backdating prescription was TRUE. She was among his victims.

— Josh Levs (@joshlevscnn) January 18, 2013

Another overarching subject of Armstrong's "bullying" was Betsy Andreu, who was one of the first people to raise suspicions. Betsy was the wife of former teammate Frankie Andreu, and she said she had heard Armstrong admit to using performance-enhancing drugs while in his hospital room. 

Their back-and-forth is one of the more notable battles Armstrong had with an accuser. But when asked by Oprah what happened in that hospital room, Armstrong refused to commit to an answer, as ESPN's T.J. Quinn relays:

Says he called Betsy, but he won't say what happened in hospital "I'm going to lay down on that one." He won't answer.

— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) January 18, 2013

After years of balking at questions, though, that was one of a select few Armstrong bristled at in the sit-down. He was open and tried to answer most of Oprah's questions without naming names, and he even seemed apologetic multiple times in the interview. Per SportsCenter's Twitter feed:

"I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and trying to apologize to people…for the rest of my life" - Lance Armstrong

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 18, 2013

Were his apologies and admissions believable? That's for the court of public opinion to decide.


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