Lance Armstrong has admitted doping as early as the age of 21 and expressed fears that his drug-taking may have contributed to his testicular cancer in 1996.
The comments come as part of ESPN’s rather functionally titled two-part documentary, Lance, which will be broadcast on May 24.
News.com.au reports that when asked how old he was when he first doped, Armstrong replies, “probably 21.”
Strikingly, that would be before his world road race title in Oslo in 1993 after turning professional the previous season.
“My first professional season,” he says. “It was cortisone; drugs that stimulate your body’s own production of cortisone.”
Asked whether he feels he got cancer from doping, he replies: "You know, I don't know the answer to that.
"I don't want to say no, because I don't think that's right either. I don't know if it's yes or no, but I certainly wouldn't say no.
“The only thing I’ll tell you is the only time in my life I ever did growth hormone was the 1996 season.
“So in my head: growth, growing hormone and cells – if anything good needs to be grown, it does. But wouldn’t it also make sense if there is anything bad in there, it too would grow?”
Armstrong says he was however less concerned about possible negative effects of EPO.
"In many ways – and this is not going to be a popular answer – EPO is a safe drug," he says.
"Assuming certain things. Assuming [it is] taken properly, taken under the guidance of a medical professional, taken in conservative amounts – there are far worse things you can put in your body."
In 2018, Armstrong settled the long-running ‘whistleblower’ case originally initiated by his former US Postal Service team mate Floyd Landis, paying out a total of $111m in compensation and legal fees.
As you might imagine, he and Landis are not on speaking terms.
“Hey, it could be worse,” he says at one point in the ESPN film. “I could be Floyd Landis. Waking up a piece of shit every day. I don’t think it, I know it.”
Landis responds: “Everybody wanted to treat me like I was this evil, cheating liar. I told the truth and then I was a rat, turning on his own people. It was a no-win situation.
“I said this is what happened to everybody. Of course, it became about Lance because everything is always about Lance. That’s the way he wants it.
“He cannot pin that part on me. That’s his approach to life. It’s about ‘me’. When you’re that protected by the organisation that runs cycling, you can take out personal vendettas as well as win. He liked that. That was his thing.”
Speaking last year, Armstrong claimed he "wouldn't change a thing" about his doping.
“It was a mistake. It led to a lot of other mistakes. It led to the most colossal meltdown in the history of sports. But I learned a lot.”