Lance Armstrong says that if he were riding now, he wouldn’t need to dope. But he admits that if he were taken back to the mid-1990s he would still use performing enhancing drugs in that period, because they were “completely and totally pervasive” in the peloton at the time.
The disgraced cyclist, who in 2012 was banned from competitive sport for life and stripped of results including the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005, was speaking to the BBC’s Dan Roan.
Their conversation is the subject of a 30-minute programme that will be shown on BBC News at 8.30pm this Thursday, and will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer afterwards.
It’s Armstrong’s first in-depth broadcast interview since he confessed to Oprah Winfrey in early 2013 that he had cheated to win those yellow jerseys, but he remains insistent that he didn’t dope after his return to the sport in 2009.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) whose investigation of Armstrong led to his ban say he did, but former UCI president Pat McQuaid, ratifying the sanction in 2012, said the governing body did not agree with that part of the national agency’s reasoned decision.
Roan asked Armstrong: “When it comes to the doping, would you do it again?”
The 43-year-old said: “It's a complicated question, and my answer is not a popular answer. 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 it was completely and totally pervasive, I'd probably do it again. People don't like to hear that."
Quizzed about whether he was riding clean on his return to the sport with Astana in 2009, four years after his first retirement, he said, “Absolutely, absolutely."
But he agreed that while it does hurt him when people don’t believe he is telling the truth about that, he can understand why.
"I got patience on that. Because we are going to be in a time and place where there is a rock-solid test for blood transfusions, and the first person they say 'let's test' will be Lance Armstrong.
"So I can tell you that I didn't dope in 09-10, and the day a lab, a scientist or a group of people come up with a definitive test for blood transfusions, I'll be the first man to give my samples.
“And not just one of them: I'll give them all. From those years there must be 100 samples, if not more.
"That one, I just have to be patient on. That one, I'll be proved right on," he maintained.
The Texan has spoken with the Cycling Independent Research Commission set up by UCI president Brian Cookson, and said: "I have met them twice, they have asked me not to go into details, but everybody knows I have met with them, so that is not a secret.
“I think it's safe for me to say that whatever questions they asked, I told. A lot of it is out there. So I don't know if there's a whole lot out there left, but I was totally honest, and I was totally transparent.”
The father of five added: "At this point of my life, I'm not out to protect anybody. I'm out to protect seven people, and they all have the last name Armstrong."
He conrasted his own fate with that of two of the other big stars of the Tour de France in his period of dominance who have been allowed to keep the jerseys they won, despite themselves admitting to doping.
"Ultimately, and I'm speaking as somebody else: 'I watched seven Tours, I watched them, I kind of see who won, yet he didn't win, nobody won, the sport is left with no winner, seven empty yellows, and yet the same years you have green jerseys from [Erik] Zabel who's fully admitted [doping], polka-dots from [Richard] Virenque who's fully admitted... how does this [happen]?' I don't think it serves our sport well."
Armstrong also sought to put his doping, and that of other members of the US Postal Service team he rode for, into a wider sporting context.
USADA insisted that the team had been involved in “most sophisticated, professionalised, successful" doping programme in sporting history.
"Yes, but that's not true,” he insisted. “Lance Armstrong is not the biggest fraud in the history of world sport. US Postal was not the most sophisticated doping programme.
“To say that in light of all you read about the East Germans, the West Germans, the Turks, the Russians, God forbid, all the other major sports leagues in the world.
“No," he continued.
"Listen, I get it, Travis Tygart and USADA needed a splash. All those [words] are great. They work for PR, they create a buzz. But they're not true.
“There was doping, it was dirty, it was a terrible time. All those other headlines, they're not true," he added.
Armstrong also spoke about what he sees as cycling’s current challenges when it comes to doping, and where it may go in future; we’ll report those comments tomorrow.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.