Five years since his confession to Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong is still paying a price for what he did.
“In excess of 100 mil,” Armstrong said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports on Jan. 4.
That’s the cost to him so far. But it’s not just because of his sins in cycling. He’s also paying a price for that confession. By admitting to his doping and dishonesty, Armstrong exposed himself to fraud lawsuits, including a government civil case that goes to trial in May that could cost him nearly $100 million more.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people,” Armstrong told Oprah in the interview that aired Jan. 17 and 18, 2013.
Five years later, the fallout has been uneven, legally and personally. He’s met with a number of those he tried to trample. But some said his attempts at making amends were self-serving and that he still hasn’t paid enough.
“All that money he earned, he actually cheated to get it,” said Kathy LeMond, wife of former cyclist and Armstrong critic Greg LeMond. “He didn’t earn any of that honestly. It’s all ill-gotten gains.”
Armstrong has disputed this and has had lawyers in at least three U.S. time zones and Great Britain to help defend him against it. That long fight finally might end with the looming trial, but questions remain about how much the Oprah interview helped or hurt his cause. It depends on the case. After five years, here’s a look at where things stand:
The apology tour
Armstrong, 46, once bullied and tried to ruin those who didn’t go along with his longtime lie that he never used banned drugs to cheat in races. Armstrong told Oprah he owed apologies to such people and specifically named Emma O’Reilly and former cyclists LeMond, Tyler Hamilton and Frankie Andreu, along with his wife Betsy Andreu. “I owe them apologies, and whenever they’re ready, I will give them,” Armstrong said then.
He’s had meetings with some of them, including O’Reilly, the cycling team masseuse he once sued and called a prostitute after she told the truth about him.
Some didn’t buy it, including the LeMonds, who met with Armstrong in 2015. Greg LeMond had said Armstrong tried to destroy him for years after he had dared to question Armstrong’s involvement with Michele Ferrari, a doctor linked to doping.
“I wouldn’t say it was a heartfelt apology,” Kathy LeMond told USA TODAY Sports last week. “It was a meeting, and I think he hoped to diffuse us continuing this.”
Greg LeMond, a former Tour de France winner, might testify against Armstrong in the trial in May. Armstrong’s attorneys tried to prevent him from testifying, describing him as a “combustible” witness with nothing relevant to offer. But U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper disagreed.
Betsy Andreu might also testify in the case, even though Armstrong’s attorneys asked the court to prevent her from testifying and using the case as a “soapbox for impugning Armstrong’s character.” The judge rejected that request.
Andreu, an outspoken critic of Armstrong, had previously testified along with her husband in 2005 about Armstrong’s use of banned drugs. Both since were smeared by the cyclist. A day before the Oprah interview, Armstrong called the Andreus to say he was sorry, but Betsy Andreu said Armstrong refused to meet with her when she tried to see him in person.
“It didn’t take long after Mr. Armstrong’s call that he resorted to his same old tactics of going after my husband and me, publicly as well as privately,” Betsy Andreu told USA TODAY Sports last week. “This time around, however, people see him for the pathological liar he is. I tried to reconcile with him going so far as flying to meet with him in his hometown. When he refused to meet with me after I arrived in Austin, I knew his phone call was nothing more than a show for Oprah. I just wish he would now just leave us alone.”
USA TODAY Sports asked Armstrong for comment on his apologies and other aspects of his life since his confession.
“If this is really the direction you’re going in for any story I have no comment,” he wrote in an e-mail Jan. 12.
In reply, a USA TODAY Sports reporter told Armstrong he wanted his input on what these people have to say about him now.
Armstrong responded: “No comment. And no need to ever contact me again.”
USA TODAY Sports also contacted David Walsh, the Irish journalist who helped expose the Armstrong lie nine years before the confession. Armstrong sued Walsh and The Sunday Times of London for printing an article in 2004 that suggested Armstrong was doping – a case that ended when the Times agreed to pay Armstrong a million pounds.
After the confession, Armstrong made financial reparations to the Times. But Walsh said he did not get an apology from Armstrong despite the fact that he had told Oprah that he would apologize to him.
“My feeling is that Lance believed this was enough,” Walsh said of the reparations. “I never wanted an apology and never expected one – so I wasn’t disappointed. But I thought his telling Oprah Winfrey that he would apologize to me was a very funny from the interview because he was almost coerced into saying something he never wanted to say.”
Mike Anderson, Armstrong’s former assistant, now lives in New Zealand and says nothing happened when Armstrong visited there in 2016.
His conflict with Armstrong dates to 2004, when he said he found a performance-enhancing drug in Armstrong’s medicine cabinet. Armstrong fired him, and Armstrong’s attorneys since characterized him as a disgruntled employee out for financial gain. Anderson told the Associated Press in 2013 that Armstrong had made his life “very, very unpleasant.”
“I have no expectation, nor interest in a feigned apology by Lance Armstrong,” Anderson told USA TODAY Sports in an e-mail. “Perhaps I know him better than most, since I spent a lot of down time with him, and know the true measure of the man.”
Plaintiffs attorneys pounced on Armstrong with five fraud lawsuits against him within four months of his Oprah interview. They all cited the confession and wanted payback.
Two of the suits were dismissed, including one filed by readers who wanted refunds for buying the lies in his book It’s Not About the Bike. Two others settled with payments from Armstrong, most notably around $10 million for SCA Promotions, a Texas company that had paid his Tour de France bonuses from 2002 to 2004. The company had suspected Armstrong of cheating in races and refused to pay in 2004. But Armstrong forced the company to pay him after he sued and falsely denied his doping under oath in 2005-06. In the end, the confession helped re-open that case and cost him.
But the biggest reckoning might be yet to come. Shortly after his confession, the federal government joined a suit filed in 2010 by Landis, Armstrong’s former teammate. Landis is acting as a government whistleblower in the case and could get 25% of the damages if the government succeeds.
Landis’ attorney, Paul Scott, said Armstrong’s confession five years ago was calculated for his future benefit after Armstrong’s lies were no longer believable. A few months before the confession, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive file of damning evidence against him in 2012. The evidence was so strong that virtually of his sponsors and cancer charity, Livestrong, divorced with him soon after.
“We already had him dead to rights when he confessed,” Landis’ attorney, Paul Scott, told USA TODAY Sports. Scott said Armstrong’s confession “was a tactical decision on his part, made with full knowledge of the possibility that he would someday be in front of a jury in our case. Trying to sell a jury on the idea he wasn’t doping, when there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary, would have hurt him more than helped him.”
The government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, which says it would not have paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team from 2000 to 2004 if it had known he was violating the sponsorship contract and cheating.
Under the False Claims Act, that amount could be tripled and add another big dent to Armstrong’s wealth. In his defense, his attorneys say the Postal Service received far more in promotional value from the sponsorship than it possibly can prove in damages it suffered from the doping. Because of this, Armstrong might not have to pay much in damages, if any.
“We feel confident about our positions going into trial, as we have always felt confident about defeating this wrongheaded case,” Armstrong’s attorney Elliot Peters said in November.
If he loses, it still might not bankrupt Armstrong, who amassed decades of wealth from sponsors, races, books and public appearances before he received a lifetime ban from pro cycling in 2012. He currently hosts a popular podcast called The Forward, in which he has interviewed various celebrities, including former retired race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and former Olympic skier Bode Miller.
Armstrong interviewed Miller earlier this month and recounted how he once sought to have Miller destroyed after Miller suggested to Rolling Stone in 2006 that Armstrong was doping.
“I am going to nuke this guy,” Armstrong said of his feelings toward Miller then. He even said he contacted his sponsor, Nike, to complain about Miller, who also was sponsored by Nike.
Armstrong apologized to him on his podcast.
“I’m terribly sorry,” Armstrong said.