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“This story was so perfect for so long. It’s this myth, this perfect story, and it wasn’t true,” he said.

Winfrey got right to the point when the interview began, asking for yes-or-no answers to five questions.

Did Armstrong take banned substances? “Yes.”

Did that include the blood-booster EPO? “Yes.”

Did he do blood doping and use transfusions? “Yes.”

Did he use testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone? “Yes.”

Did he take banned substances or blood dope in all his Tour wins? “Yes.”

In his climb to the top, Armstrong cast aside teammates who questioned his tactics, yet swore he raced clean and tried to silence anyone who said otherwise. Ruthless and rich enough to settle any score, no place seemed beyond his reach — courtrooms, the court of public opinion, even along the roads of his sport’s most prestigious race.

That relentless pursuit was one of the things that Armstrong said he regretted most.

“I deserve this,” he said twice.

“It’s a major flaw, and it’s a guy who expected to get whatever he wanted and to control every outcome. And it’s inexcusable. And when I say there are people who will hear this and never forgive me, I understand that. I do. …

“That defiance, that attitude, that arrogance, you cannot deny it.”

Armstrong said he started doping in mid-1990s but didn’t when he finished third in his comeback attempt.

Anti-doping officials have said nothing short of a confession under oath — “not talking to a talk-show host,” is how World Anti-Doping Agency Director-General David Howman put it — could prompt a reconsideration of Armstrong’s lifetime ban from sanctioned events.

He’s also had discussions with officials at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, whose 1,000-page report in October included testimony from nearly a dozen former teammates and led to stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles. Shortly after, he lost nearly all his endorsements, was forced to walk away from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded in 1997, and just this week was stripped of his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics.

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