The second part of Lance Armstrong's confessional with Oprah Winfrey wasn't just filler. Although Armstrong aired the bulk of his dirty laundry in the first segment of the "Oprah's Next Chapter" interview last night, confessing to extensive long-term doping and to lying about it under oath, a few revelations remained.
The first surprise was Armstrong's description of his "most humbling moment" – which wasn't informing his family that he'd cheated, lied, and would now have to come clean. On the contrary, it was stepping down from the board of Livestrong, the non-profit for cancer patients and survivors that's inextricably entwined with Armstrong (and that has sold more than 80 million of its yellow bracelets). "That was the lowest" point, Armstrong said.
[Related: 7 Noteworthy Quotes From Oprah's Lance Armstrong Interview]
Winfrey then read him an email from a friend of hers whose young son had received a cancer diagnosis (Armstrong visibly cringed); asked if Armstrong is facing his demons ("Absolutely," he insisted); and wondered if he thought the banned substances he'd used to excel in cycling had, in fact, contributed to the diagnosis of Stage III testicular cancer he'd received (he said no doctor has suggested that to him). He addressed the millions of people who had looked to him as a source of support in their cancer fights: "I understand your anger, your sense of betrayal ... you supported me forever, through all of this, and you believed, and I lied to you – and I'm sorry."
While he didn't point to getting straight with his family as the hardest part of the process of coming clean, it was clear from the broadcast that Armstrong was the most shaken by having to speak frankly with his 13-year-old son and 11-year-old twin daughters. Unable to speak at times and closely inspecting his cuticles for answers, Armstrong managed to choke out that, when he saw his son Luke defending him against the charges of doping and lying online, he knew he had to tell not just his son the truth, but (via Winfrey) the world. "I had to say something; this is out of control," Armstrong said, fighting tears, and added, "I said, 'Don't defend me anymore, just ... don't.'" He hoped the Winfrey interview would contribute to the "well-being" of his kids – that they could see him taking responsibility and accepting the truth.
But the "ruthless" competitor in Armstrong isn't gone. He's also hoping – though he doesn't "expect it to happen" – that one day he can compete again. "That isn't the reason" he did the interview with Winfrey, he made sure to say, but "if there was ever a window," he'd be back on a bike in a snap. (Armstrong isn't allowed to compete in any sanctioned athletic events, including official marathons or 10Ks.)
Other insights from Armstrong:
- The November tweet he snottily sent out of himself surrounded by his seven Tour de France jerseys was "just more defiance."
- He's in therapy now; he's done it before, off and on, but "I'm the type of person that needs to not do [therapy] sporadically."
- He admitted that he's genuinely sorry – but also sorry he got caught: "Everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught."
- The day his sponsors all began calling to void his contracts was a "$75-million day." He considers "all future income" lost.