Should Lance Armstrong Be Forgiven?

The cycling superstar confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

This combination image shows Lance Armstrong, left, on Oct. 7, 2012, and Oprah Winfrey, right, on March 9, 2012.
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Lance Armstrong confessed for the first time on Monday that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his record-breaking cycling career. The seven-time Tour de France winner made the admission in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that will air in two installments this week on the talk show host's television channel. 

Although both Armstrong and Winfrey agreed they wouldn't disclose details of the interview before it airs, Winfrey said Tuesday that Armstrong was “forthcoming” but "did not come clean in the manner that I expected.” The cycling champion has denied vehemently for years that he ever took any illegal substances, but he was banned in 2012 by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for his involvement with a doping conspiracy on his United States Postal Service pro cycling team. He was stripped of all of his Tour de France titles.

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In a statement following the announcement by the USADA, Armstrong said:

These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity … I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one.

After spending so many years denying doping, Winfrey said she wasn't sure why Armstrong chose now to come clean. "I think he was just, ready. I think the velocity of everything that's come at him in the past several months and the past several weeks, he was just ready," she said.

Before the interview Monday, Armstrong reportedly visited the office of his cancer charity, Livestrong, to apologize to his staff. A cancer survivor himself, Armstrong started the charity in 1997 and it has since raised more than $325 million.

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The cyclist reportedly wants to resume competition in triathlons, but the World Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday that Armstrong must confess under oath to receive a possible reduction in his lifetime ban:

[O]nly when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath—and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities—can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence.

U.S. News's Susan Milligan says that while Armstrong's admission is disappointing, we really shouldn't be that surprised by his doping:

It's easy to get angry at the sheer lie of it all—not just the lie, but the indignation with which the lie was told ... But in our drug-addicted culture, are performance-enhancing drugs that awful?

It's cheating, of course. But it's not as though we all start out on a level playing field when it comes to sports. Basketball is a game of tremendous skill, requiring grueling training, but it also depends on freakish height. Most of us could take all the drugs we can find, and we'll still never run a sub-five minute mile or achieve a double axel.

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