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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Lance Armstrong

Aired August 25, 2005 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lance Armstrong is determined to stamp his mark. He is the next yellow jersey. Armstrong wins the time trial and wins the Tour de France.

LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight's exclusive: Legendary athlete Lance Armstrong. He beat cancer, conquered the cycling world's biggest challenge, the Tour de France, seven times and now his first television interview on the drug allegations from France that threaten one of the most inspiring legacies in all of sports.

Lance Armstrong for the hour. We'll include your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: And joining us for the questioning in New York with Lance Armstrong is Bob Costas. One note before we start, we want to thank OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, for letting us use their footage of the Tour de France during tonight's program. We thank Lance for coming aboard with us.

Lance, on Wednesday Leblanc, the tour director, Jean-Marie Leblanc, the tour director of the whole concept, was quote by "L'Equipe," the newspaper that broke this story, as saying "For the first time and these are no longer rumors or insinuations, there are proven scientific facts. Someone has shown me that in 1999 Armstrong had a banned substance called EPO in his body." Leblanc continued, "He owes explanations to us, to everyone who followed the Tour. Today what "L'equipe" revealed shows me that I was fooled and we were all fooled." Very damaging. Lance, your response to that.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, SEVEN-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER: Well, as I said yesterday, that kind of an accusation is preposterous. If you considered the science, if you consider the protocol involved in drug testing, if you consider the standards that have been set over dozens of years, you know that none of that was followed here.

And so for Jean-Marie to say that was a shock to me, first of all, because I actually spoke to him that very same day for about 30 minutes on the telephone. I called him at his house in Paris and he didn't say any of those things to me. In fact, he was just sort of hemmed and hawed and said, 'I'm surprised." I said, "Yes, I'm surprised, too. I think we're all surprised." But none of the stuff that of course I read in the paper came across in his phone call to me. But this thing stinks. It's not good for me. And the unfortunate thing is that you potentially dealt with something that you have to face for the rest of your life. And like I said, the protocol wasn't followed and there is no backup sample to confirm what they say is a positive test.

KING: Why you, Lance. Why over the years, why you, do you think?

ARMSTRONG: You know, we could look at a lot of things. If we consider the landscape between Americans and the French right now, obviously relations are strained. But this has been going on for seven years. Let's not forget that it's 2005 and this all really began in 1999, when I won the first tour.

I mean, immediately at that time, they started with scandalous headlines and a lot of insinuation and a lot of slimy journalism. So I've dealt with it for seven years. This is perhaps the worst of it. I mean, ultimately when someone comes along and says, "oh, by the way, you're positive," that's a pretty serious accusation.

So -- but it's never been pretty. Couple that with the fact that French cycling is in one of its biggest lulls it has been ever. I don't know, I think it's been 20 or 25 years since they won the Tour de France. And times are tough, you know, and as I was saying earlier to somebody, the day I retired, they wrote a front-page editorial on "L'equipe," and they said at the end of the article -- or the end of the editorial, they said never has an athlete's retirement been so welcome. So --

KING: Why don't they like you there? Is it just because you're American?

ARMSTRONG: Well, you know, I hate to say that. Because I actually have on an individual basis, I've had great relations with the French people. If I go to a restaurant or -- I lived there for four years. I lived in the South of France for four years. I had great friends there. I think it's a great country, But the style of the media and obviously certain people in the organization are not up to par. But I don't know what it is. At one time had I a French teammate and he says, "look, Lance, forget about it. They don't like the winners."

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Now, all of this may speak to their motivation and their resentment. On the other hand, it doesn't disprove the allegation. It just indicates what their motivation might plausibly be.


COSTS: What's your defense to the allegation itself?

ARMSTRONG: Our defense when we look at this thing and we say -- and I guess I try to ask people to sit in my seat and say, "OK, you know, a guy in a French -- in a Parisian laboratory opens up your sample, you know, Jean-Francis so and so, and he tests it. Nobody's there to observe. No protocol was followed. And then you get a phone call from a newspaper that says we found you to be positive six times for EPO."

Well, since when did newspapers start governing sports? I mean, Bob, you know baseball well. When an athlete's positive, Major League Baseball calls and they handle it in the correct way. When does a newspaper decide they're going to govern and sanction athletes? That's not the way it works.

COSTAS: When -- go ahead.

ARMSTRONG: And nowadays, we all want clean sport. And fortunately, an organization called WADA has come along and has really governed the world of anti-doping. They have set about a protocol and a code that everybody has to live by. And they violated the code several times.

They don't have an answer for it. You know, you talk to the head of WADA and he doesn't have an answer. You talk to the head of the French Ministry for Sport, he doesn't have an answer. The lab runs from it. The only person who's sticking by the story is "L'Equipe."

COSTAS: Here's the head of the World Anti-doping Agency, Richard Pound, a long-time Olympic official. He said this week, "It's not a he said-she said scenario. There were documents. Unless the documents are forgeries or manipulations of them it's a case that has to be answered."

ARMSTRONG: You know what? It is absolutely a case of he said- she said. What else can it be? Do you think I'm going to trust some guy in a French lab to open my samples and say they're positive and announce that to the world and not give me the chance to defend myself? That's ludicrous. There is no way you can do that.

COSTAS: Do you plan legal action?

ARMSTRONG: That's the most commonly asked question in the last three or four days and it's a possibility. We would have to decide who we -- we're going to pursue, whether it was the lab, whether it was "L'Equipe, " whether it was the sports minister, whether it was WADA. All of these people violated a serious code of ethics.

KING: But Lance, if you're totally clean, why not sue them all, since they all have some part in this? Can you unequivocally say you have never used an illegal substance ever?

ARMSTRONG: Listen, I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again. But I've said it for seven years. It doesn't help. But the fact of the matter is I haven't. And if you consider my situation: A guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence, why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That's crazy. I would never do that. No. No way.

KING: So, why not, as Bob asked, why not sue them all? ARMSTRONG: You know, lawsuits are two things: They're very costly and they're very time-consuming. And fortunately, cycling has been great to me and I have the money and the resources to do something like that, but you know, I'm retired...

COSTAS: You've done it before. You have civil cases pending.

ARMSTRONG: I do. Absolutely.

COSTAS: You've been litigious before when you felt it was justified.

ARMSTRONG: Yes and you know what, at the end of the day when you sue somebody, it just keeps a bad story alive forever. It gives them the opportunity to say "Oh, we found this. Oh, we did that." It gives them more credit than they deserve.

COSTAS: To clarify for those who may not be familiar with the reports of the last few days, there are A samples and B samples. All the A samples were used up in the initial analysis following that competition in 1999. The B samples were stored. There can be some question as to whether they were stored in the way that guarantees that the sample is pure.


COSTAS: But they were stored and then supposedly, newer more sophisticated techniques come along. They test the B samples and they found the B sample to be positive from 1999. That's what they're alleging. They're not saying any other time.

ARMSTRONG: Right. But for starters, the test is in question itself. Take all of this aside, me and these new allegations, forget about all that. The actual test for EPO, what they call electrophoresis, is actually being questioned on a pretty serious level right now. Why do you think they're still working on it? Because it doesn't work that well.

So you throw that in. Then you throw in the fact that these samples were stored for six or seven years. Where were they stored? What was the temperature, et cetera, et cetera? There's not any scientific data that suggests that after five years, samples look and act the same that they did before. It doesn't exist.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, exclusive with Lance Armstrong. Bob Costas along with us for the questioning. Your calls will be included later. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lance Armstrong added a dash of yellow to our celebration in Red, White, And Blue.



KING: We're back with Lance Armstrong.

Lance, what is EPO? And what is it supposed to do that enhances the athlete?

ARMSTRONG: Well, EPO is basically a red blood cell booster. I think if -- most people know what it means to go to altitude. You know, you go there and you feel weaker, you get winded quicker. But after you stay there for four or five or six weeks, you start to feel the effects of the altitude, and it benefits you. And when you go back down to sea level, you will have had -- or you will have increased performance levels. So basically, it's a synthetic version of that that would help you to do that in a synthetic or you know, in this case an unethical way.

COSTAS: And in an endurance sport like cycling, it's obviously a performance enhancer. If you do use it, you get a benefit from it.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. You would be -- and that's what's so interesting to me. Yes. The answer to that is yes, you would have a benefit from that.

We took -- we gave -- I gave 17 samples in 1999. So they say six of them were positive. We're not really sure what happened to the other 11, why they weren't positive. We're not really sure what happened to the other 11, why they weren't positive.

But the other thing I just want to stress is that I've won this race seven times. This wasn't the only time. And this wasn't the only year I gave samples. I gave samples in 2000 and '01 and '02 and on and on to '05.

COSTAS: You're arguably the most tested athlete in the modern history of sports. In and out of competition.

ARMSTRONG: In and out of competition. And I think that's the real key...

COSTAS: In fairness that's true.

ARMSTRONG: That's the future of the anti doping fight is out of competition surprise controls. And I had six of them this year. Six. You know, I would put that up against anybody else's.

But in all those other years obviously they were testing for EPO. My performance never changed. '99 was fast, 2000 was actually faster, 2001 was even faster. Well, if you have such an advantage in '99 with this drug called EPO and they took it away from you in 2000, 2001, why are you still going fast?

COSTAS: Here's what the skeptic says. Although it was illegal in 1999 and prior to, there was no test for it until 2001. So Lance, not alone among the competitors, probably most of the competitors in a sport that has a doping history, were using something or other. They figured it wouldn't be detected. The test comes in in 2001, and either they get off it at that point or they go in some other direction more sophisticated way to boost performance.

ARMSTRONG: Right. I have your answer. The test started in 2001. In the year 2000, the test would not have started. They launched a federal investigation into our team for doping practices. They seized all of our blood and urine samples, and they tested them, with the not yet approved EPO test. So we could have done it in 2000 as well. But at that time in 2000 when they tested it, it was negative. All of them were negative. In fact, one of the doctors even said they're too clean. Now, what does a guy got to do to get a break?

KING: All right. Lance, where do you go -- where do you go with this, Lance? For example, if you don't sue...


KING: I mean, can they suspend you? Can they take away your title? Where does this go?

ARMSTRONG: Listen, it's -- somebody violated all the rules of drug testing here. There's no way that I could be suspended or stripped. You have to have a confirmation sample, and we don't have that. And that's -- you know, I wish we did. I really wish we did.

KING: So you will in a sense never -- it'll always be a case of did he or didn't he?

ARMSTRONG: It's always going to be a case of did he or didn't he. But it's always been a case of did he or didn't he. I mean, this is not the first time somebody's come along and said ah he's doped, ah he rode too fast, ah, his story's too miraculous no, way, he's doped. This has been going on for seven years. And I suspect it will continue.

I thought, you know what, I retire and move on in life and perhaps this stuff will fade away, and boom, this comes along. So no, this is -- it's not the first or last time.

KING: Do other bikers talk to you about it?

ARMSTRONG; Well, I've got to tell you, I've been on, aside from the last day or two, I've been on my ranch in Austin, Texas, and I haven't seen many guys in the pro pelleton.

KING: Is this -- I know, Bob, you've covered a lot of Olympics. Is this a constant story now?

COSTAS: Oh, yes.

KING: In all athletes, is this just the dominant story, is off the field?

COSTAS It's become a huge story in baseball. It's not over in baseball. It's constant in the Olympics. And there is a question of whether, no matter how diligent their efforts may be, whether the drug police, so to speak, can stay ahead of the drug criminals because there are ever-evolving ways to cheat.

ARMSTRONG: Well, to confuse cycling with baseball I think would be a drastic mistake. I mean, I've followed the baseball situation very closely. And while cycling perhaps does have a culture of doping and an old history of doping, I've got to tell you, there has never -- cycling was the first sport, talking about EPO, to approve the EPO test. We were the first sport to control athletes' blood at 6:00 a.m. in the morning and make sure...

COSTAS: This following a major scandal in '98.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. After '98 the sport, I have to say, it's not perfect but it sure as heck came along and did everything they could. And I commend them for that. I mean, a lot of people want to knock cycling. Obviously L'Equipe and the people even within the -- the organizers want to knock it. But what else can you do?

COSTAS: Along with admiration, there may be resentment toward you in France and other parts of Europe. But here in the United States you are one of the most admired athletes of -- of all time. People do not want to believe this of Lance Armstrong.


COSTAS: They want to give you the benefit of the doubt. At the same time I can see someone sitting at home saying, maybe they're not exactly analogous, but geez, I wanted to believe Rafael Palmeiro, he seems like a good guy, a classy guy. He looked right in that camera and said absolutely not, and then we were disillusioned. And we hope the same thing isn't true of Lance Armstrong.

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. And this comes at a bad time in regards to that. I mean, obviously we're all paying attention to the baseball situation, especially the Palmeiro situation. But Rafael Palmeiro had an and A and a B sample. I can't stress that enough. I wasn't there when these were examined.

Who opened the samples? What protocol was followed? Nothing. It was all thrown out the door. We cannot build a system of faith and trust in an anti-doping fight if we don't have faith in it. There's no way. If I'm an athlete, if I'm active today, which I'm not, thank goodness, I don't trust that system.

KING: Let me get a break, and we'll be right back with Lance Armstrong. Bob Costas is along with us. Your phone calls in a little while on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


ARMSTRONG: I've decided that the Tour de France will be my last race as a professional cyclist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking at history here.

ARMSTRONG: I'm OK for an old man.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Lance Armstrong and Bob Costas, both at our studios in New York. Didn't, Lance, didn't the former champion Greg LeMond also criticize you or question you?

ARMSTRONG: Yeah. That's been a pretty regular occurrence the last few years.

KING: What do you make of that? Jealousy?

ARMSTRONG: I don't know. It's not -- it's better I don't say anything.

KING: Do you know Greg?

ARMSTRONG: Oh, yeah. Very well.

KING: Are you shocked that he criticizes you?

ARMSTRONG: Well, I haven't heard it lately, unless I missed something in the last hour or so. But the first time he criticized me, yeah, I was very surprised.

KING: Do you think that maybe people have trouble because you fought the battle, you almost died? Testicular cancer, it spread, you were going to die, and then suddenly you become the greatest champion cyclist of all time. That people have trouble equating that?

ARMSTRONG: Well, and as Bob alluded to earlier, we arguably had the biggest doping crisis in the history of sport in 1998, when one of the French teams was found to be driving across the border with a ton of doping products in their car, hundreds of thousands of dollars in doping products. And lo and behold, I come back the next year from this illness in '99 and win the Tour. So the story was too good to be true for them from the very beginning.

KING: Bob?

COSTAS: In fairness, there have been tests done on you that indicate that you're something of a physiological anomaly, that everything that could possibly max out in terms of making someone ideally suited physically to this task is present in you. Then couple that with the will, the determination, the improvements in technology, nutrition and training. You took all of that to the max.


COSTAS: And yet someone might acknowledge all that and say there's every reason to admire Lance Armstrong, and he's in a sport where others are doping, and so just so that they don't have that edge, just so that all that effort and talent doesn't go to waste, he's got to dope a little bit too just to level that.

ARMSTRONG: Exactly. I mean, it's been, as I said, this has been seven years. And what's interesting about this last thing, they have samples from 20, 25, 30 years ago, but they just happened to pick that year, 1999, to do the experimentation. So we could have tested Mitch and Greg LeMond. We could have tested his samples. But of course not.

You know, when you win their race seven times, which six was the record, but then to go on and win it a seventh time, they don't love it. I remember last year, they did a poll in one of the big weekend papers in France, and it was a poll of the most hated sportsmen in France. And I was really glad that I didn't win that one. Michael Schumacher won, who's a great guy, gives back to the community, Formula One driver, an unbelievable person, but he wins every weekend. They hate him. Number two was somebody I don't know. I was third.

KING: You've been a popular winner, though, Lance. Right? You're not a hated winner. I mean, a lot of people hate the New York Yankees. They hate Notre Dame. You never were a hated winner, were you?

ARMSTRONG: It depends. I mean, I think certain parts, if not a lot of the parts of the French media, yeah, they absolutely hated me. And what the media says a lot of times dictates the reaction on the side of the road. So, you know, did you hear a few taunts and boos along the way the last five or six or seven years? Absolutely. But you know, overall the support was overwhelming.

COSTAS: You used EPO as part of your chemotherapy treatment in 1997.

ARMSTRONG: Right. Well, late '96.

COSTAS: That was when you stopped using it, late '96?


COSTAS: OK. Medical experts I've spoken to say that EPO and its benefits would be out of one's system by a month prior to.

ARMSTRONG: Right. Right.

COSTAS: So there's no way in the world that any trace elements of that would show up in this test. That's not relevant here.

ARMSTRONG: Exactly. So why are six of them positive and the other 11 aren't? I'm saying there were 17 samples. So if the drug would stay around for two, three, four weeks, we have 17 samples given, and only six of them positive. What happened to the other 11?

KING: How often are you tested? When you're riding?

ARMSTRONG: OK. So when you win the stage, you're tested. If you have the jersey -- well, take the jersey and keep the jersey, you're tested...

COSTAS: Meaning you're in the lead. If you wear the yellow jersey... ARMSTRONG: If you wear the yellow jersey, you're being drug tested. Absolutely. You know, just in the Tour alone, I think I have 85 days in yellow, so you have 85 tests right it. Throw in a few more stage wins when you didn't have the jersey. Throw in a few more random controls, like we had at the beginning of the Tour this year. We had just a day before the start, we had a knock on the door, and the minister of sport had sent a crew down there to collect two samples of urine, two samples of blood. And we checked around and found out that nobody else in the pelleton was tested that day. So I can't say -- I can't say witch hunt loud enough.

KING: Is EPO picked up blood or urine?

ARMSTRONG: I don't know. I mean, we're talking about a urine control here, but I suspect -- yeah, I suspect they could find it in the blood too. But I would be -- I'd be speculating if I said that.

KING: We're going to take a break, and when we come back, in addition to the questioning by Bob Costas and yours truly, we'll be including your phone calls.

Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, speaking out against the new doping allegations by the French sports daily "L'Equipe."

We'll be right back with your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with Lance Armstrong and Bob Costas. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, and with my man Bob Costas, both in New York. We again want to thank OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, for letting us use their footage of the Tour de France during tonight's program.

Before we go to calls, someone asked a question, Lance. Why didn't you, with all these allegations running around, have an independent lab test you, like do it on your own?

ARMSTRONG: You mean collect my samples along the way?

KING: Yes.

ARMSTRONG: Well, you know what, we actually considered that. The problem with that is that nobody would have believed that on our side. People would have said, oh, sure that's -- sure, you did it on your own, sure you collected it. I mean, who's going to -- that's the whole point, is whoever collects such a critical specimen has to be reliable, and nobody would have trusted our person, just the same way we don't trust theirs.

COSTAS: Don't you have, or shouldn't you have copies of the records from every time you were tested during the Tour? And if there was any manipulation of the numbers, since they match the numbers to the samples, shouldn't you be able to produce your records and say, wait a second, these numbers don't sink up? ARMSTRONG: Yes. You get a carbon copy of the test results or the test form that day. I wouldn't have them from 1999. But that's not what was manipulated. What was manipulated was the urine. What was put in the urine? Who was there when -- I don't think the papers were manipulated.

COSTAS: So again, for those who may not be clear on this, you are flatly saying, regardless of the fact that you have criticisms of the protocol, even if the protocol was correct, there's no way they could have found...

ARMSTRONG: Listen...

COSTAS: EPO in your urine because you're flatly saying you never used it?

ARMSTRONG: When I peed in that bottle, there wasn't EPO in it. No way.

KING: Did anything like this come up when you rode with President Bush? Was any discussion of this?

ARMSTRONG: You know, this all came out a few days after that.

KING: I know, a little after. But because of all the allegations over the years, did it ever come up?

ARMSTRONG: No. It never came up once.

He was fanatical about the ride. And he was going as hard as he could. I was very impressed. But we didn't discuss this stuff.

KING: Is he a good bike rider?

ARMSTRONG: He is a good bike rider. He was -- I was really surprised. And he absolutely has a real love and a real passion for it. But you know, speaking about what we talked about, and this is ultimately what I have to move on and focus on in the future, is you know, what did we talk about? We talked about the fight against cancer.

You know, so for me to sit here -- I would much rather be on this show talking about the illness and what we're going to do to fix it versus having to sit here and defend myself. But fortunately that day we were able to focus on the illness.

COSTAS: You lobbied him for more federal funds for cancer. Do you think successfully?

ARMSTRONG: I don't know yet. We'll know when the check is in the bank, so to speak. I asked him for a billion dollars, which is the most I've ever asked anybody, safe to say.

COSTAS: Yes. Normally you don't make that kind of request.

ARMSTRONG: Right. So... KING: Richard Nixon said, though, over 30 years ago the No. 1 battle would be the war against cancer. That never panned out.

COSTAS: did bush while you were riding and talking did he talk about the war in Iraq? Did he talk about Cindy Sheehan?

ARMSTRONG: No. I think we -- listen, I've been -- I've taken a position on the war simply because I think that we could use our taxpayers' dollars in a slightly different way. But it never came up. We never discussed it. She wasn't there when we drove by. She had gone home because unfortunately her mom was ill.

COSTAS: There's been talk about you getting into politics. If you ever considered that, would you now think twice or a third time or a fourth time, give it greater consideration because we know that politics is an increasingly dirty game? And if this is what you're facing now, this, anything they can dredge up, true or not, about your personal life, anything, you want to go through that?

ARMSTRONG: No. I don't. And just even I think two weeks ago the "Dallas Morning News" ran an article where they had gone in and examined all my voting records and examined my positions on certain issues, what groups you're affiliated with, to try to decide -- because I never said am I a Democrat or am I a Republican...

COSTAS: So that's probably legitimate.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, that's legitimate. But it still doesn't feel good when they're digging in your stuff and they call and you say you never voted.

COSTAS: So politics is out?

ARMSTRONG: Politics isn't out. But it's out for a while.

KING: Let me get to calls.

Before we do, by the way, are you and Sheryl Crow going to get married?

ARMSTRONG: Sheryl's watching right now. So it wouldn't be fair to say. I can't tell you and tell the whole world before I tell her, can I, Larry?

KING: Or ask her.


COSTAS: You know, that's why Larry's here, Lance. I wouldn't have asked that. But Larry got it in.

KING: New York City. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Can altitude training change blood -- kind of body chemistry by raising red blood cells?

KING: Good question.

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's the whole idea behind it. I mean, when you go -- if you use certain things like hemoglobin and hematocrit as parameters, if you're a sea level athlete, you start at a hematocrit of 41 or 42, you spend two or three months at altitude, you might be close to 50. It makes a big difference.

KING: Tampa, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I have a two-part question. How did the evidence leak out? How did this paper get the info? And were you notified before print? Also, how are they pinpointing you when the B samples are submitted anonymously?

ARMSTRONG: We were notified by the newspaper on I think Monday that the article was going to run, and they wanted a reaction. They desperately wanted a reaction. We said we can't react until we've seen the article. They said well, you've been positive six times. And we said, well, let's see the article. As you see the article here. I mean, that headline in French says "The Armstrong Lie" which, I mean, makes me cringe.

But anyhow, the second -- I'm sorry, ma'am. The second part of your question?

KING: How did it -- if the samples are anonymous, how do they know it's you?

ARMSTRONG: Well, we have now what they call the WADA code, and one rule in the WADA code is that when there is only one sample left it must always remain anonymous. It could never be made public. It could be used for experimentation only on the grounds that the athlete gives his approval. And in that case it would have to be anonymous forever. So somebody along the way violated two very serious WADA codes.

COSTAS: Larry, let me jump in here with a question. In addition to any tangible evidence, Barry Bonds was associated with Victor Conte, who's in it deep in the BALCO scandal. Marion Jones was once coached by the guy who coached Ben Johnson, the disgraced Canadian sprinter. You once had an association with Dr. Michelle Ferrari from Italy, who was involved in the doping of athletes, cyclists specifically. There's a guilt by association thing that some people go with in a situation like that. Now we hear this. Are you afraid that some people, even those who admire you, may get to the point where they say where there's smoke there must be some fire?

ARMSTRONG: I agree. And I've known Michelli for a long time and known him to be a perfectly open and honest and ethical man. He was never proven to have doped athletes. It was his word against one other athlete, and the same athlete had been on the record as before he even knew Michelli Ferrari as having doped for five years before they first even met.

That's a long complicated story. I chose to stand by Michelli until the trial resumed. Unfortunately, in Italy they convicted him of sports fraud, and so we severed our relationship. But I stand by what I said. I trust the guy. And I never saw anything to lead me to believe that he was dirty.

KING: Are you still his friend?

ARMSTRONG: Yes. The way I was raised you stick by somebody and you have faith in them. And he's still a friend. I'm not going to lie about that. We don't work together anymore, obviously, now. But he's not a bad person.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more questioning and phone calls for Lance Armstrong. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Our next caller is from Brussels, Belgium. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. My question to King Lance. Lance, you won the Tour de France seven times. What advice would you have given your opponents to beat you in one of those seven races?

KING: How would you ride against you?

ARMSTRONG: Hire my entire team and staff.

KING: Is there -- by the way, is there another one coming along? Who's the next great bicyclist?

ARMSTRONG: American or non-American?

KING: Anybody.

ARMSTRONG: Well, I think the current crop is not exactly young. They're in their mid to late 20s. Even perhaps the favorite next year will be a German, Jan Ullrich, who's in his early 30s, but to say there's a 21 or 22-year-old person, a rider or athlete out there, I don't see that yet.

KING: Austin, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Lance. Thanks for all the joy that you brought us in your cycling career. My question is: I personally thought it was very unprofessional of Mr. Leblanc to state that he had hard proof when all of this seems so biased and fishy, do you feel he should be censured in some way for his comments or even resign?

ARMSTRONG: Well, I started to get a sense for what his comments were going to be. That's the reason I called him. And we had a fairly long conversation. I said, "Look, Jean-Marie, put yourself in my position, that I've no way to defend myself here."

And he just kept repeating, "I understand. I understand. I see your position. I understand." None of this stuff of he's duped the fans or he's fooled the fans. None of that came up. So of course when that did roll out in the press, I thought, "Wait a minute, is this the same guy I just talked to for half an hour yesterday?"

KING: Yes. Bob, Lance Armstrong aside, in this day and age with all this going on, are rumors going to prevail? Is this going to be hovering over us? Are we going to hear about more athletes and more things breaking?

COSTAS: Yes and I think the standard of proof, especially when you have the Internet and talk radio and whatnot, the standard of proof is not going to be what it should be 100 percent of the time. Someone's going to float a rumor and the normal checks and backup for a story and having additional sources and having hard evidence, that's not going to prevail in every case. Some will stick to that standard and many won't.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. No, I think if you run too fast or jump too high or hit too many homers, they're going to ask you some hard questions.

COSTAS: Larry, let me read something here to Lance that Michael Wilbon, a very well regarded sports columnist from the "Washington Post," wrote the other day. "Armstrong is so much more important than Rafael Palmeiro or Jason Giambi or for that matter, Barry Bonds. People who have never even seen him perform have invested so much hope in his battles and achievements. Usually these allegations are easily dismissed like a tabloid story purporting an actress giving birth to an alien baby, but you have to wonder given the times, if this latest report is going to shake folks' considerable faith in Armstrong, if only just a little."

Do you worry about that yourself?

ARMSTRONG: Well, I certainly hope not. I mean, all I can do is come on this stage and tell my story and be honest and be open and honest. I've always done that. And if there's a following over the years, that's what they follow. They like the person that was open and honest and shared his story and lived for other things other than the bike. And that's not going to change. This is in my mind, this is the same as what the actress girl having an alien baby. This is --

COSTAS: But there's no evidence of the alien baby. Someone here is saying we have evidence. You're disputing it, but they're saying we have evidence. Not somebody said something, someone with an ax to grind. They're saying, hey, we've got it. We have the vials right here.

ARMSTRONG: They have the test results. I don't think they have the vials. And to me that's not acceptable. And I would just ask anybody that is considering, "Do I still support the guy or not," sit in his seat for a while and say, "OK, give somebody your urine."

You're only going to give them one sample. You don't get to be present when they test it. You don't get to check the results. You don't get to make sure that it was followed ethically and tested ethically. And they're just going to call you up and say you're positive? No. KING: What is it like when you know in your heart you didn't do something -- we don't know, but you know you didn't -- and you face this?

ARMSTRONG: I'm a little bit -- I'm taking this one a little easier than some of the allegations over the years, because I am now retired. So, I don't have to worry about going back to France. I don't have to worry about going over there and racing again and dealing with these people. I don't have to worry about giving a urine sample that will be manipulated anymore. That stuff is done for me. So in that sense, I'm relieved.

COSTAS: Just a few weeks ago, you came back from France. You were both relieved and exultant. You'd won seven in a row, you were ready to move on in the next phase of your life. As you sit here, what's your level of contentment or happiness since this has come up so soon after?

ARMSTRONG: I'll tell you, I judge a lot of things by how I sleep, for whatever reason. And I tell you, since this stuff's rolled out, I sleep great at night. I don't have a problem sleeping. I don't have a problem looking at myself in the mirror.

You know, is this unfortunate thing? Absolutely. I don't want to sit here and answer these questions, but it's my right to do so and I think I'm obligated to do so. And -- but hey, life is going to go on and the fight that I've committed to for the rest of my life, won't be changed at all.

Listen, I sat in an all-day meeting today with the president's cancer panel and this was not an issue. That was the issue and it doesn't distract from what we're doing. So --

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more of Lance Armstrong along with Bob Costas, yours truly, Larry King. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Long Branch, New Jersey. Hello.



CALLER: Hi, Lance. Live strong.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

CALLER: The question I have is: You've been accused for seven years. You always will be and it'll always be a case of he said-she said. So at this point why give credence to this witch hunt, when you have so many other positive things to focus on like the foundation and cancer survivorship?

ARMSTRONG: Right. Well, this one was arguably more serious than the other ones and what I've done in the past is I've always come out and talked about it. I've never hid from it. We did release a statement early on and then a few days later we began to talk about it, starting with yesterday and today.

And -- for as far as I'm concerned, this is really going to be the end of the story. This is sort of my last public appearance on it and there's nothing else I can do. There's nothing more I can say. And yes, you're right. It is time to move on and do something positive and life.

KING: So, you spoke to newspapers and this only television appearance to discuss it?

ARMSTRONG: Let me think about that, now -- now that I'm promising things. But yeah, I think it is.

KING: That's a good idea. Make it your own leak. Florence, Alabama. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Lance. I just wanted to say thank you for everything you've done. You've inspired me, and my dream is to work for your foundation one day. So maybe I'll see you.

But my question for you is, you always used to put your frustrations from allegations like this into riding on your bike and into proving everyone wrong. Now, are you going to channel your frustrations into proving that there are other cancer survivors out there like you and I, that can go on and do something as miraculous as you've done? Or do you hope to channel your frustrations into hoping that these code of ethics aren't broken anymore?

ARMSTRONG: Well, I mean, you're exactly right. I have channeled my stuff onto sort of an anger on the bike in the past, and let's not be fooled, I still ride the bike almost every day. So I can go out there and ride hard for an hour or two, and take out plenty of frustration there.

But I have to enter a new phase in my life, where I realize I'm not going to have this outlet of sport, I'm not going to have the outlet of winning a big race or training hard for something, working hard for something, and ultimately having success and having the thrill of victory, as they used to always say. That's done for me. So yeah, I need to find a new high.

COSTAS: Lance, let me paraphrase what a very well-respected doctor, who's prominent in the anti-doping field, told me today. He said, "I want to believe only the best about Lance Armstrong." This is a remarkable athlete, a remarkable person. And as a doctor, of course, he especially appreciates your overcoming cancer the way you have.

He believes that you are the most gifted cyclist ever, and that you combine that with the most sophisticated training and this tremendous will that you brought to bear. He believes all those things. He also thinks the protocol and the ethics here, as he put it, stinks. But at the same time, he says, "I'm still not able to say I can't bet my children's lives that these tests weren't positive." Maybe he was clean 99 percent of the time and in this one particular case -- I don't like the way they did it, I don't like the way it's come out, I admire Lance Armstrong, but I'm still not sure he was clean 100 percent of the time. What do you say to that guy?

ARMSTRONG: A couple of things. I would say, thank you for all the nice things. Second thing, don't ever bet your kids. And thirdly, these are not the only controls that have gone on. We have had -- or I have had personally hundreds of controls the last seven years, many of them out of competition.

Funny story. And quite possibly could be in some weird way linked to this. When I came to this very city, New York City, to support their bid for 2012, we did an announcement in the park, I went home. Guess who's standing at the doorsteps of Sheryl's apartment in downtown New York City? Out-of-competition drug control. Complete surprise.

So I mean, that's what you're playing with. If you want to take risks and run around and take drugs, and then they all of a sudden show up at your door and you have to pee for them, you're over with.

KING: Let me get a break, and we'll be back with some more moments and get another call or two in. Don't go away.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": We have a little something for you.


LETTERMAN: It goes on the handlebars. You see what I'm talking about?

ARMSTRONG: Very nice.

LETTERMAN: Hope you get a lot of use out of that.


KING: Nice touch.

How many of those -- how many of those rubber bands have been sold at a dollar for your foundation?

ARMSTRONG: Fifty-five million of them.

KING: Fifty-five million. And how is your mother dealing with all this? ARMSTRONG: You know, she's fine. My mom, she's a fighter. She's tough. So this stuff is -- again, like me, she's used to it. It doesn't affect her. She's fine.

COSTAS: What do you say to your kids? They're little.

KING: Yeah.

COSTAS: Now, or as they get older?


COSTAS: If, in addition to all of the admiration and accolades, if someone says something related to this about their dad, what will you tell them?

ARMSTRONG: Well, they'll know -- by that point, they will know their dad pretty well. I don't worry about that. Of course, at some point somebody is going to say, your old man was a cheater. But it will be an insensitive, classless person that obviously has no idea what's going on. So I hope that doesn't happen. I think it's always a bad idea to involve anybody's kids in something like that.

KING: Let me get in one more call. Louisville, Kentucky. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Lance. About your kids, I know you don't like to be away from them and training took you away from them for long periods of time. If you become a roadie for Sheryl, will you be able to control the amount of time you're away from your kids or will you take them with you?

ARMSTRONG: There are a few certainties in my life from now on, pillars we'll call them. And those things are three little things right now. That will never change. My schedule with them, unfortunately, since Kristin and I are not together anymore, is not full-time, it's not 100 percent of the time. But my time with them is incredibly precious.

And you know, I'll be a roadie for Sheryl, but I will be having to do a lot of traveling, and going back and forth. And Sheryl's the same way. She doesn't want to miss time with them. She's grown to love them. And they absolutely adore her. So you know, we'll structure our lives to still be normal people.

KING: Where do you go from here, Lance? Where's home?

ARMSTRONG: Well, home is in Austin, Texas. But tonight, I'm going to fly back to D.C., because we have yet another day of President's Cancer Panel meetings tomorrow, and then beyond that, Sheryl and I are going to take a little vacation for five or six days.

KING: And Bob, where do you -- I'm sorry, Bob, go ahead.

COSTAS: I was just going to toss a question. Since you were in some sense the most fit athlete in all the world, now you're not competing. What will your fitness regimen be like the rest of your life? You're about to turn 34 years old?

KING: We got a minute.

COSTAS: Got a minute.

KING: We got a minute, Lance.

ARMSTRONG: Well, it'll be -- it will be consistent. I have to exercise every day. But it is a weird feeling when you finish your last sporting event at the highest level and you say, you know what, I will never be this fit again the rest of my life. I'll never be this lean, this fit, this skinny, this ready. That's a pretty scary idea. But it's true. But you know what, an hour or two a day, and I'm happy.

COSTAS: See, many of us have given up on that a long time ago. Right, Larry?

KING: Yeah, you're not kidding. Bob, where do you think this story's going to go? Thirty seconds.

COSTAS: I don't know. If there's additional evidence, disputed or not, I guess it's prolonged. If it's -- if not, I guess it will fade away or to some extent fade way. We'll have to wait and see. I'm not sure.

KING: And Lance, you continue to sleep well, right?

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely.

KING: How many hours do you get a night?

ARMSTRONG: Eight or nine, hopefully. I can't say that I got eight or nine last night, but I need a good -- I had a nap today after the meeting. So I was happy.

KING: Thank you for doing this, Lance. It was a wonderful -- wonderful having you for the hour.

ARMSTRONG: Thanks for having me on.

KING: And Bob, thanks so much for participating as usual.

COSTAS: Thank you, Larry. See you soon.

KING: Thank you.

Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, speaking out against the new doping allegations. And we also thank my man Bob Costas for participating with us.

Tomorrow night, among many subjects, we'll be doing a follow-up on Hurricane Katrina, which is now hitting my old home down there in South Florida.

Aaron Brown is off tonight, but the lovely and talented Paula Zahn -- I like saying Paula better than Paula. Joins us -- I don't know why it sounds better. Joins us from New York. She will host -- look at that. Look at that. Loveliness personified!

PAULA ZAHN, GUEST HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": It always sounds more exotic when you say it than just anybody else out there. So thank you, Larry.

KING: OK. All right, here's Paula.