The formerly defiant Lance Armstrong once said, "As long as I live, I will deny ever doping," but sitting face to face with Oprah Winfrey in an interview that was broadcast on Thursday, he reversed course. Yet, like always, Armstrong could not help fighting.
He called his doping regimen simple and conservative, rejecting volumes of evidence by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that the drug program on his Tour de France-winning teams was "the most sophisticated, organized and professionalized" doping scheme in the history of cycling. When asked about the people he had tried to crush while he tried to keep his doping secret - people like the former masseuse Emma O'Reilly or his former teammate Frankie Andreu and Andreu's wife, Betsy - he showed little contrition. Those are some of the people who claimed he had doped and who he subsequently publicly claimed were liars. He had called O'Reilly a prostitute and an alcoholic. In the interview, Armstrong acknowledged calling Betsy Andreu crazy.
Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the antidoping agency, called Armstrong's admission "a step in the right direction."
But it did not really matter what Armstrong told Winfrey in the interview, at least according to Tygart and other antidoping agency officials who hold the key to Armstrong's future as a professional athlete.
"Anything he says on TV would have no impact whatsoever under the rules on his lifetime suspension," Tygart said.
Armstrong, 41, wants to compete in triathlons and in running events again, but he is barred from many of those events because they are sanctioned by organizations that follow the World Anti-Doping Code.
To get back into those events, he must tell antidoping officials details of who helped him dope, who knew about his doping and who helped him create one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of sports.
He might be able to dig himself out of his lifetime ban in exchange for a reduced ban of, perhaps, eight years.
More in the dragnet
It might also shine the spotlight on some of the most powerful men in the sport of cycling, including Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union and a current member of the International Olympic Committee, and Hein Verbruggen, a past president of the cycling union and a current honorary member of the I.O.C.
At least two of Armstrong's teammates have claimed that the cycling union accepted a bribe from Armstrong to cover up at least one positive test.
But only a small group of people would be able to prove those claims were true, and Armstrong is one of those people. With Winfrey, Armstrong denied that he had bribed sports officials to hide an alleged positive EPO test at the Tour of Switzerland.
Reactions to the confession
I think it's a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this…It would be ridiculous for him to decline and refuse all the charges because it has been proven. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story… he should suffer for his lies. I've lost a lot of faith in cycling…I used to watch it. All the big champions that were there.
Tonight, Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit. 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.
Travis Tygart, USADA chief
I'm really disappointed. He owed it to me. You owed it to me, Lance, and you dropped the ball. After what you've done to me, what you've done to my family and you couldn't own up to it. And now we're supposed to believe you?
Betsy Andreu, wife of Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu
We at the Livestrong Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us. Even in the wake of our disappointment, we also express our gratitude to Lance as a (cancer) survivor for the drive, devotion and spirit he brought to serving cancer patients and the entire cancer community.
Livestrong, the cancer charity founded by Armstrong
Armstrong's decision finally to confront his past is an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport.
Pat McQuaid, UCI president