Lance Armstrong is still trying to move forward following the scandal that ended his storybook cycling career. On Monday morning's Stern Show, the once world-renowned athlete opened up to Howard about why he decided to take performance-enhancing drugs, how he's dealing with the fallout, and what he'd say to an angry fan who confronted him face to face.
"If somebody were to come up to me … I'd shake their hand, I'd say 'I totally understand and I'm sorry,'" Armstrong told Howard. Such an interaction has never actually happened to Lance, though. Instead, he explained the majority of negative responses he's received over the past five years occurred online. "They don't have to come up to your face," Lance continued. "That's never happened. Ever."
His decision to take EPO, or erythropoietin, came after many other professional cyclists had already started using the synthetic hormone. "I'm not trying to justify it or make excuses, but it was so long ago and the culture of the sport was so fucking crazy at the time," Lance told Howard. "Not everybody made the choices we made. Almost everybody did, but not everybody."
Armstrong's explanation for why he turned to performance-enhancing drugs was simple: "Fuck, I wanted to win and I wanted to be the best." He likened the necessity of taking EPO to taking a knife to a knife fight — the only way to win was to take the same substance everyone else was already taking.
Lance also told Howard he believes that, had he retired from the sport sooner, the scandal would have never been uncovered.
"Had I just stopped in 2005, it would have been over," Armstrong said. But he believes successfully beating cancer and becoming a household name is what drew the attention that would eventually get him caught, telling Howard his comeback is what made his scandal relevant.
Armstrong's testicular cancer diagnosis came when he was just 25 and doctors presented him with a 50-50 chance at survival after the disease spread to his abdomen, lungs, and brain. Still, he told Howard he was determined to stay alive and return to cycling. "I would tell anyone in that situation … we're not numbers, we're not stats, let's go find the best doctor, let's get multiple opinions, let's surround ourselves with good people, friends and family, and then fucking go fight."
Lance took his fight to Indianapolis where he found the right cancer specialist to lead the charge in his recovery. Armstrong famously had one of his testicles removed but explained that the procedure didn't involve an incision in his scrotum. Instead, surgeons made a cut around his bellybutton and pulled out his cancerous organ from the top.
Howard wanted to know whether he still stood by his decision to give Oprah Winfrey the exclusive first interview after his scandal came to light. Lance revealed the reason he chose to talk when he did was because he knew he was on the verge of being sued.
"And I knew I was going to get sued six times to Sunday," Lance told Howard, explaining he faced lawsuits from several different parties, including his former sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service. "When the report came out and they stripped the titles, I fucking knew they were lining up."
"Did I want to sit with Oprah, who I liked and trusted, or did I want to sit in a small room in a lawyer's office with a grainy video, some guy just hammering my ass, and leaking the video?" Lance continued. "So I said, 'Fuck it. I'm just going to get it out there.'"
Lance also told Howard he was the one who contacted Oprah initially and that he received no money for sitting down with her. He also revealed he reached out to Tom Brokaw at the time, whom he described as being "a father figure" to him.
"That might have been a better place to go," Lance said of whether he should have done the interview with Brokaw.
Now that his secret is out, Lance has seen a mix of support and rejection from friends, something he termed "leaning out or leaning in" towards him in his time of need. "It sucks when you find out a friend leaned out," Lance said.
His podcast "The Forward" is titled as such because it's the direction he hopes to keep moving now, post-scandal.
"I'm moving forward and I'm going to move forward with my life as it exist today, with my children as they exist today, and with whoever's on the team," Lance told Howard.
You can check out Lance Armstrong's podcast "The Forward" at LanceArmstrong.com