Lance Armstrong has insisted he “wouldn’t change a thing” about the doping that helped him win seven editions of the Tour de France before he was subsequently stripped of the titles.
Armstrong returned from cancer to dominate the Tour between 1999 and 2005 but fiercely denied allegations of doping until coming clean in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013, five months after he had been handed a life ban from cycling.
In a new interview with NBC Sports, the 47-year-old American said he was grateful for the lessons he had learned.
“We did what we had to do to win,” Armstrong said. “It wasn’t legal, but I wouldn’t change a thing – whether it’s losing a bunch of money, or going from hero to zero.
“It was a mistake, it led to a lot of other mistakes. It led to the most colossal meltdown in the history of sport. But I learned a lot.”
The comments come from a 30-minute interview which is due to be broadcast in full next Wednesday.
Armstrong said one of his mistakes was being so aggressive in his handling of questions on the issue at the time.
“I couldn’t turn it off. Huge mistake,” he said. “We’d all love to go back in life and have a few do-overs.
“I never should have taken it on, especially knowing that most of what they said was true.”
Armstrong claimed that he could have won without doping if that was not already the prevalent culture in the sport at the time, comparing anybody who did not dope as like someone turning up to a knife fight with only their fists.
“I wish kids from Plano, Texas; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Brooklyn; Montana…young Americans, we go to Europe and if everybody is fighting with their fists we still win, I promise you that.
“That’s what I wish would’ve happened. I made a bunch of mistakes but it got me to this place I’m in now and I don’t want to trade with anybody.”
But Armstrong said he knew from the start doping was widespread at the time.
“I knew there were going to be knives at this fight,” he said. “Not just fists. I knew there would be knives. I had knives, and then one day, people start showing up with guns.
“That’s when you say, do I either fly back to Plano, Texas, and not know what you’re going to do? Or do you walk to the gun store? I walked to the gun store. I didn’t want to go home.
“I don’t want to make excuses for myself that everybody did it or we never could have won without it. Those are all true, but the buck stops with me.
“I’m the one who made the decision to do what I did. I didn’t want to go home, man. I was going to stay.”