Believe it or not, it’s been two years since cycling champion Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs. In an interview to be broadcast by the BBC on Thursday night, Armstrong says he would probably dope again. But he offers a financial justification for that choice.
His seven Tour de France victories benefited his sport, as well as his Livestrong foundation, Armstrong told the BBC. (The foundation subsequently cut ties with him.) It also gave a lift to Trek, the bicycle maker that provided his equipment.
“When I made the decision – when my team-mates made that decision, when the whole peloton made that decision – it was a bad decision and an imperfect time. But it happened,” Armstrong said. Speaking of himself in the third person, he went on, “When Lance Armstrong did that, I know what happened. I know what happened to cycling from 1999 to 2005. I saw its growth, I saw its expansion. I know what happened to the cycling industry. I know what happened to Trek Bicycles – $100 million in sales, to $1 billion in sales.”
He said, “I know what happened to my foundation, from raising no money to raising $500 million, serving 3 million people. Do we want to take that away? I don’t think anybody says yes.”
Armstrong, whose team represented the U.S. Postal Service for a number of years, even contends that his efforts helped to improve the organization’s image. Armstrong is being sued by the federal government, contending that his doping constituted a breach of contract. The suit, which might cost him $100 million in damages, is set to go to court in 2016.
Said Armstrong, “I’m confident that [the sponsorship] was beneficial to the organisation. By the way, I’m proud of that relationship, I’m proud of what we did. I’m proud of the fact that if you asked somebody on the street in 1998 what they thought of the Postal Service they would have given you the thumbs down. If you asked somebody who worked for the Postal Service in ’98: “What do you think of working for them?” They would have said ‘meh’, thumbs down. But from 1999 to 2004, they loved it.”
He continued, “It was well documented that workplace violence within the Postal Service was almost a comedy routine, it was tragic. The phrase ‘going postal’ was commonplace. From ’99 to ’04: no incidences of workplace violence. It was an organization that was proud of what they had going, it was something that appeared in newspapers all over the world.
“Look, I loved racing for those folks, they had great people from the top to the bottom, so I don’t know what 12 people are going to say. All I can do is put on the best defense and let a jury decide.”
Transcript of the Armstrong interview