"One big lie." With these words, Lance Armstrong admitted for the first time he had doped, lied and bullied his way to seven Tour de France titles.
In his first interview since being stripped of his record yellow jersey haul and banned for life, the 41-year-old told talk-show host Oprah Winfrey - the episode was aired late Thursday - the "mythic, perfect story... wasn't true".
"I made my decisions. They're my mistake. And I'm sitting here to acknowledge that and to say I'm sorry... I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times," Armstrong said, calling himself "flawed".
The fallen cycling hero said he justified his actions in the years he won the Tour from 1999 to 2005 because doping was then part of the sport's culture. He did not see it as cheating, he said.
"I viewed it as a level playing field."
Describing his favoured "cocktail" of EPO, blood transfusions and testosterone, he recalled telling himself his history of testicular cancer justified it.
He also admitted he bullied those who did not go along with him but denied forcing teammates to dope. He also denied doping during his comeback in 2009-10.