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Lance Armstrong says despite fallout from doping ban, “day to day life is positive”

Disgraced cyclist upbeat on whistleblower case, says no-one else to blame for his doping

Lance Armstrong says despite the fallout from the ban handed down to him in 2012 by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), his “day to day life is positive” and that he won’t blame anyone else for his decision to dope.

He also says he’s confident he will win the whistleblower lawsuit brought against him by former team mate Floyd Landis, and that he has plans for a third instalment of his autobiography in which he will put his version of what he describes as a “shit storm, a fall from grace, a disgrace."

Speaking by phone from his home in Aspen, Colorado to CNN’s Matt Majendie, Armstrong said that while he had received abuse on social media and had been ostracised from the cycling community, that hadn’t spilt over into his everyday life.

"In this day and age, there's plenty of outlets for people to hurl the most heinous comments that you can think of, you only have to look at the comments that will be at the bottom of this piece," said Armstrong.

"But,” he went on, “day-to-day life is positive [No change there – Ed]. I never get crap, not once, and I'm surprised by that. Sure, I sometimes get the vibe that someone wants to say something, but it's never happened."

Armstrong, whose net worth before his ban was estimated at $125 million and who has since lost lucrative sponsorship deals from companies including Oakley and Nike, faces a potentially ruinous lawsuit that could cost him nearly $100 million should it go against him and the court award the maximum penalty possible.

Brought under federal whistleblower legislation by former team mate Landis it alleges that government money, in the form of the US Postal Service’s sponsorship of Armstrong’s team, was misused by being spent on a doping programme.

The US Department of Justice has joined the action but Armstrong is bullish that he will prevail – although seasoned Lance-watchers will note that he was similarly confident he could rebut allegations of doping, right up to the point he confessed.

"I'm very confident that that's a winner for us," he insisted. "I don't think anyone can truly argue the U.S. Postal Service was damaged. They made a lot of money in the deal and got what they bargained for.

"I worked my ass off for them and I'm proud of it. Furthermore there wasn't a technical relationship between myself and the U.S. Postal Service. In many ways, I'm no different to Tyler Hamilton or Floyd Landis or whoever. We were just independent."

Armstrong admitted that he likes a scrap, but acknowledged that at times that has led to him hurting people, not least those who went public with first-hand knowledge of his doping, or at least queried his performances.

Those include former team mate Frankie Andreu and his wife Betsy, ex-USPS masseuse Emma O’Reilly, and thre-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond.

"I definitely have a 'fuck you' attitude," said Armstrong. "I fight in training, I fight to win races, I fight to motivate the guys in the team.

"That brazenness is a great thing for that but it's not a great place for personal relationships. I just didn't have the switch to turn that off. It helped me on the bike but it also got me where I am today."

Armstrong insists he is contrite, but as Majendie points out, it is the years of insistence that he wasn’t doping and the bullying of some of those who tried to get the truth out there that leads many to question his sincerity now.

"I was good at playing the part," Armstrong told the journalist. "After the 850th time, it's not like I'm going to say, 'Matt, you seem like a nice guy, I'm going to be honest with you.' Once you say 'no' you have to keep saying 'no.'

"If this stuff hadn't taken place with the federal investigation [shelved at the star of 2012 but which led to USADA opening its case against him], I'd probably still be saying 'no' with the same conviction and tone as before. But that gig is up."

Many believe that despite his televised confession to Oprah Winfrey in January last year, which came three months after USADA had issued his lifetime ban and stripped him of results including those seven Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005, Armstrong still isn’t telling the whole truth.

While USADA insisted in its Reasoned Decision that he had doped after coming out of retirement for the 2009 season, Armstrong says he didn’t, and former UCI president Pat McQuaid, ratifying the lifetime ban, agreed with the cyclist. 

It’s not lost on some that it is in Armstrong interests to continue to deny having doped during that period, despite USADA’s insistence he did.

That’s because any admission would immediately leave him open to lawsuits from former sponsors and the like looking to recoup money, with any such cases, unlike those relating to previous years, not statute barred.

But Armstrong says he plans to bring out a third autobiographical book in which he promises to tell the truth – although given that his first two, It’s Not About The Bike and Every Second Counts, are now seen by many as works of fiction, it’s questionable how large the audience might be.

"I need to write a book and it needs to be pretty raw," he said.  "The book needs to be pretty intense and transparent. I need to 'boom' -- put it out there and let it sit. The sooner the better. It has to be the right book, the right tone and there has to be totally no bullshit."

After spending much of 2013 out of the limelight following his televised confession, Armstrong’s profile has risen again in recent months, including meeting with some of those he wronged in the past such as O’Reilly, but he insists it’s not part of an organised campaign to rehabilitate himself.

The man who once ensured that those who queried the legitimacy of his performances were frozen out of the sport also insisted he is blaming no-one else for his decision to dope, and his subsequent fall from grace.

"I'm a big boy, I made my own decisions and I need to be held accountable for that," he maintained. "I'm not going to blame people. A lot of people have blamed everyone else but that's bullshit.

"No-one forced me or bullied me, so I'm not going to say, 'It's not my fault.' I blame myself, that's the bottom line,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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