Two years after coming clean over his use of drugs, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has admitted that, in the same circumstances as he found himself 20 years ago, he would "probably do it again".
The serial drugs cheat, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in 2012, also said that he hoped he could soon return to the sport in some capacity and that he would be forgiven by the public. He added that he would like to be given his tour titles back.
In his first TV interview since his tearful confession to Oprah Winfrey in 2013, the Texan told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that the decision to dope had been taken by the "whole peloton", although he described it as "a bad decision and an imperfect time".
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Asked if he would do it again he said: "If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn't do it again because I don't think you have to. If you take me back to 1995, when doping was completely pervasive, I would probably do it again."
He implied that the pressure to cheat was overwhelming. "We were put in a place and we looked around as desperate kids and thought: 'God, I've got to go back to Plano [his birthplace in Texas] and maybe go back to school, or get a job, or work in a bike shop or work in a factory [if I don't cheat].'"
In the interview Armstrong did "offer something that began to resemble an apology for his misdeeds", says William Fotherington in The Guardian. But "it came with the same defence that he has offered since the end of 2012 – that his doping was a generational phenomenon".
Talking about his tour titles, Armstrong said that as doping was rife at the time of his successes, he still felt he had won the races. The yellow jerseys have not been reassigned since he was stripped of them. "I think there has to be a winner, I'm just saying that as a fan," he said. "I feel like I won those Tours."
"Armstrong's comments are timely given the forthcoming report from cycling's independent reform commission, CIRC, which has spent the past year investigating the sport's doping culture," says Tom Cary in the Daily Telegraph. "The CIRC is empowered to offer reduced sanctions to people coming forward and, more significantly in the case of Armstrong, can recommend reductions in the cases of those already banned."
Armstrong, who is banned from cycling for life, says he wants to return to high-level sport and also raise money for charity.
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