암스트롱은 17일(이하 현지시간) 방영된 오프라 윈프리 쇼에서 1999년부터 2005 년까지 7번의 투르드프랑스 타이틀을 따는 동안 매번 약물을 복용했다고 털어놨다.
|'사이클 황제' 랜스 암스토링이 유명 토크쇼인 오프라 윈프리 쇼에서 도핑 사실을 털어놨다. (AFP-연합뉴스)|
자신을 '깡패', 혹은 '문제가 많은 사람' 등으로 묘사한 암스트롱은 약물을 복용 했느냐는 윈프리의 질문에 "그렇다"고 명료하게 대답했다. 그는 에리스로포에틴, 성장호르몬, 혈액 도핑 등 복용한 약물에 대해서도 구체적으로 고백하며 약물 검사에서 양성 반응을 피하는 것은 "스케줄 짜기 나름"이라고 설명했다.
윈프리가 "왜 지금까지 도핑 사실을 부인했느냐"고 묻자 그는 "잘 모르겠다"며 "이 모든 것이 내 잘못이고, 나는 큰 거짓말 한 가지를 여러 번 반복했다"고 답했다.
암스트롱은 고환암을 극복하고 세계 최고 권위의 사이클 대회인 투르드프랑스에서 7회 연속 우승을 차지한 사이클계의 전설이었다.
그러나 지난해 미국 반도핑기구(USADA)가 그의 도핑 증거가 담긴 보고서를 발표 했다. 국제사이클연맹(UCI)은 이를 받아들여 그를 영구 제명했다.
선수 시절부터 지금까지 끊임없이 도핑 의혹을 받아온 그가 도핑 사실을 시인한 것은 이번이 처음이다.
암스트롱은 당시 사이클계에 만연했던 도핑 문화 때문에 도핑을 하지 않았다면 자신이 이룬 성과들을 얻을 수 없었을 것이라고 설명했다.
그는 "내가 그 문화를 만들어낸 것은 아니지만 막으려 하지도 않았다"며 "누구를 원망하고 싶지도 않다. 나는 그저 내 잘못을 털어놓으려는 것일 뿐"이라고 덧붙였다.
2005년 투르드프랑스 7번째 타이틀을 딴 뒤 은퇴한 그는 2009년 다시 사이클계로 돌아왔지만 그때부터 2011년 다시 은퇴할 때까지는 약물을 사용하지 않았다고 주장했다.
그는 자신을 "사기꾼이라 생각한 적이 없다"며 "2011년 은퇴한 뒤 절대 걸리지 않을 것으로 생각했다"고 말했다.
하지만 그는 2001년 투어오브스위스에서 도핑을 무마하기 위해 UCI에 돈을 줬다 는 의혹에 대해서는 부인했다.
법률 전문가들은 암스트롱이 형사 처벌을 받지는 않겠지만 광고회사나 동료 등으로부터 몇 백만 달러에 달하는 민사 소송을 당할 가능성이 크다고 분석했다.
암스트롱은 사이클계에서 은퇴한 뒤 시작한 철인 3종과 마라톤 종목에서 선수 자격을 되찾길 원하기 때문에 선처를 구하고자 이번 인터뷰에 응한 것으로 알려졌다.
Armstrong admits doping: 'I'm a flawed character'
Lance Armstrong finally admitted it. He doped.
He was light on the details and didn't name names. He mused that he might not have been caught if not for his comeback in 2009. And he was certain his “fate was sealed” when longtime friend, training partner and trusted lieutenant George Hincapie, who was along for the ride on all seven of Armstrong's Tour de France wins from 1999-2005, was forced to give him up to anti-doping authorities.
But right from the start and more than two dozen times during the first of a two-part interview Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey on her OWN network, the disgraced former cycling champion acknowledged what he had lied about repeatedly for years, and what had been one of the worst-kept secrets for the better part of a week: He was the ringleader of an elaborate doping scheme on a U.S. Postal Service team that swept him to the top of the podium at the Tour de France time after time.
“I'm a flawed character,” he said.
Did it feel wrong?
“No,” Armstrong replied. “Scary.”
“Did you feel bad about it?” Winfrey pressed him.
“No,” he said. “Even scarier.”
“Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?”
“No,” Armstrong paused. “Scariest.”
“I went and looked up the definition of cheat,” he added a moment later. “And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
Wearing a blue blazer and open-neck shirt, Armstrong was direct and matter-of-fact, neither pained nor defensive. He looked straight ahead. There were no tears and very few laughs.
He dodged few questions and refused to implicate anyone else, even as he said it was humanly impossible to win seven straight Tours without doping.
“I'm not comfortable talking about other people,” Armstrong said. “I don't want to accuse anybody.”
Whether his televised confession will help or hurt Armstrong's bruised reputation and his already-tenuous defense in at least two pending lawsuits, and possibly a third, remains to be seen. Either way, a story that seemed too good to be true _ cancer survivor returns to win one of sport's most grueling events seven times in a row _ was revealed to be just that.
“This story was so perfect for so long. It's this myth, this perfect story, and it wasn't true,” he said.
Winfrey got right to the point when the interview began, asking for yes-or-no answers 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 his Tour wins? “Yes.”
Along the way, Armstrong cast aside teammates who questioned his tactics, yet swore he raced clean and tried to silence anyone who said otherwise. Ruthless and rich enough to settle any score, no place seemed beyond his reach _ courtrooms, the court of public opinion, even along the roads of his sport's most prestigious race.
That relentless pursuit was one of the things that Armstrong said he regretted most.
“I deserve this,” he said twice.
“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. And when I say there are people who will hear this and never forgive me, I understand that. I do. ...
“That defiance, that attitude, that arrogance, you cannot deny it.”
Armstrong said he started doping in mid-1990s but didn't when he finished third in his comeback attempt.
Anti-doping officials have said nothing short of a confession under oath _ “not talking to a talk-show host,” is how World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman put it _ could prompt a reconsideration of Armstrong's lifetime ban from sanctioned events.
He's also had discussions with officials at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, whose 1,000-page report in October included testimony from nearly a dozen former teammates and led to stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles. Shortly after, he lost nearly all his endorsements and was forced to walk away from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded in 1997.
Armstrong could provide information that might get his ban reduced to eight years. By then, he would be 49. He returned to triathlons, where he began his professional career as a teenager, after retiring from cycling in 2011, and has told people he's desperate to get back.
USADA chief Travis Tygart, who pursued the case against Armstrong when others had stopped, said the cyclist's confession was just a start.
“Tonight, Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit,” Tygart said. “His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But 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.”
Livestrong issued a statement that said the charity was “disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us.”
“Earlier this week, Lance apologized to our staff and we accepted his apology in order to move on and chart a strong, independent course,” it said.
The interview revealed very few details about Armstrong's performance-enhancing regimen that would surprise anti-doping officials.
What he called “my cocktail” contained the steroid testosterone and the blood-booster erythropoetein, or EPO, “but not a lot,” Armstrong said. That was on top of blood-doping, which involved removing his own blood and weeks later re-injecting it into his system.
All of it was designed to build strength and endurance, but it became so routine that Armstrong described it as “like saying we have to have air in our tires or water in our bottles.”
“That was, in my view, part of the job,” he said.
Armstrong was evasive, or begged off entirely, when Winfrey tried to connect his use to others who aided or abetted the performance-enhancing scheme on the USPS team
When she asked him about Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who was implicated in doping-related scrapes and has also been banned from cycling for life, Armstrong relied, “It's hard to talk about some of these things and not mention names. There are people in this story, they're good people and we've all made mistakes ... they're not monsters, not toxic and not evil, and I viewed Michele Ferrari as a good man and smart man and still do.”
But that's nearly all Armstrong would say about the physician that some reports have suggested educated the cyclist about doping and looked after other aspects of his training program.
He was almost as reluctant to discuss claims by former teammates Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis that Armstrong told them, separately, that he tested positive during the 2001 Tour de Suisse and conspired with officials of the International Cycling Union officials to cover it up _ in exchange for a donation.
“That story wasn't true. There was no positive test, no paying off of the labs. There was no secret meeting with the lab director,” he said.
Winfrey pressed him again, asking if the money he donated wasn't part of a tit-for-tat agreement, “Why make it?”
“Because they asked me to,” Armstrong began.
“This is impossible for me to answer and have anybody believe it,” he said. “It was not in exchange for any cover-up. ... I have every incentive here to tell you `yes.”'
Finally, he summed up the entire episode this way: “I was retired. ... They needed money." (Yonhap News)