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Sports

Too little, too late: widespread anger over Lance Armstrong’s doping admission

media Lance Armstrong during the interview with Oprah Winfrey. Reuters/Harpo Studios, Inc/George Burns/Handout

Critics and former teammates of the disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong have been unanimously critical of Armstrong’s admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs to win his seven Tour de France titles.

In a pre-recorded televised interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast on the talk show host’s OWN network, Armstrong finally came clean and confessed his remarkable wins between 1999 and 2005 were fuelled by an array of drugs.

"Yes or no. In all seven Tour de France of your Tour De France victories did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?” Winfrey asked.

"Yes,” Armstrong replied.

"In your opinion is it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping seven times in a row?" Winfrey continued.

"Not in my opinion.”

Armstrong also admitting to taking the blood booster EPO and using blood transfusions.

The highly-publicised confession, leaked days in advance to the international media, ended more than a decade of aggressive denials and legal action to silence his critics.

“I made my decision. They’re my mistakes…and I am sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that,” he said, adding that he had been a bully to people who raised questions about his performance, especially after beating cancer.

The director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, said Armstrong’s confession was a highly-controlled public communications exercise.

The admission was immediately dismissed by Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu, and one of the first people to say the Texan admitted to doping.

“I’m really disappointed,” she told CNN. “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?”

Criticism and anger also from David Walsh, a journalist for the UK’s Sunday Times whom Armstrong sued for publishing a book alleging he cheated.

“It felt good to hear him admit to doping…When he said he was behaving like a jerk during those years, I thought ‘Lance, I could have told you that back then’,” he wrote on Twitter.

Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), said the admission was “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.”

Armstrong reportedly offered to pay more than 3.7 million euros to the U.S. government in compensation for an alleged fraud against the U.S. Postal Service, which for years sponsored his cycling team.

There has also been scepticism about the nature of the televised interview, which did not detail how Armstrong doped and evaded detection.

“There’s nothing new from my point of view. All he did was affirm what the US Anti-Doping Agency had put out in a very substantial and irrefutable judgement some months ago…all he did was confirm that today in a very controlled manner” said John Fahey, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Livestrong, a cancer charity Armstrong set up, said it was “disappointed” with the admission, but “we accepted his apology in order to move on and chart a strong, independent course.”

The confession caused outrage outside of the cycling world as well.

“I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this…It’s just not the way to he successful, so I think he should suffer to his lies all these years,” said tennis world number one Novak Djokovic.

However there was some support from former cycling teammate Tyler Hamilton, who himself was caught doping.

“He did the right thing finally. And it’s never too late to tell the truth,” he said.

Ahead of the interview, Armstrong was stripped of his final professional title and ordered to return a bronze medal he won in the time trial at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

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