"If you watch the Tour de France on American TV, if you read about it, it's just as if you can't mention him," Armstrong says of himself in a new interview

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated June 11, 2015 02:30 PM
Credit: Getty; Zuma

Stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned for life from the sport he once dominated, Lance Armstrong has become the cycling world’s greatest villain – and he knows it.

“I’m that guy everybody wants to pretend never lived,” Armstrong, 43, says in a revealing new interview with the U.K.’s The Telegraph. “But it happened, everything happened. We know what happened. Now it’s swung so far the other way … who’s that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort? It’s like that on every level. If you watch the Tour on American TV, if you read about it, it’s as if you can’t mention him.”

Speaking out from his vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, the article paints a picture of a man who is at times contrite, at times defiant about his decade-long fall from grace.

Now, Armstrong is stirring controversy once again for choosing to participate in the One Day Ahead ride, cycling part of the Tour de France route just ahead of the start of the prestigious race he won seven times.

Brian Cookson, the president of the UCI, the cycling’s world governing body, calls Armstrong’s participation in the ride that raises money to fight leukemia "completely inappropriate and disrespectful".

Armstrong, meanwhile, told the Telegraph his appearance in the charity race is “the least of his [Cookson’s] problems.”

It’s also not the biggest of Armstrong’s problems, as he faces a $100 million whistleblower lawsuit first filed by former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis. If he loses, he says it will bankrupt him.

Armstrong, who made headlines several months ago for driving his SUV into two parked cars in Aspen and letting girlfriend Anna Hansen take the blame, also said he and Hansen see a therapist regularly, and he understands that the public has issues with his seeming inability to fully apologize for his actions, calling himself “evolving as a man on that.”

“We can all be better people,” he said. “God knows I could. I mean, I was a complete d— for a long time. I led a life that for 20-30 years everybody just stood around and said ‘yeah,’ ‘yeah,’ ‘yeah,’ and then there was another ‘yeah,’ and then a whole bunch more ‘yeah’s.”

“But I’m not going to be sorry for certain things,” he continued. “I’m going to be sorry for that person who was a believer, who was a fan, who supported me, who defended me, and ended up looking like a fool. I need to really be contrite and sorry about that. And I am. But these other stories are so high-profile, so hot. It’s almost like a side business. That’s too much. I’m more worried about Mary-Jane in Ohio, and Doug in Pennsylvania, or Liam in Birmingham or wherever.”

“Listen, if you could walk the world and face to face apologize I would,” he said. “And all the others who were directly impacted … I mean, I tried to make it right with every one of those people. I can only do so much.”