American cyclist Lance Armstrong has for the first time admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France victories.
After years of denials, the 41-year-old Texan told chat show host Oprah Winfrey that he had used the blood-boosting agent EPO, as well as taking testosterone, human growth hormone, cortisone and blood doping.
In the much-anticipated interview Armstrong, who last October was stripped of all his Tour titles, said that at the time of his drug-taking he did not feel it was wrong. He said he did not feel bad about taking performance-enhancing drugs, nor did he feel it was cheating, as he was creating a level playing field with other riders who took drugs.
He said: "I looked up the definition of a cheat: to gain an advantage. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."
But he said he had now changed his opinion, telling her: "I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and trying to apologise to people. For the rest of my life. I see the anger in people. And betrayal. It's all there. These are people that supported me, believed in me. They have every right to feel betrayed. And it's my fault.
"I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people. I made my decisions. They are my mistake. I am sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I'm sorry for that. I deserve this." He added: "I'm happier today than I was then."
Armstrong told Winfrey he felt doping was necessary to win the Tour de France.
He said: "That's like saying we have to have air in our tyres or water in our bottles. It was part of the job. I don't want to make any excuses, but that was my view and I made those decisions."
Armstrong, who has been stripped of all his results from August 1, 1998 and banned from sport for life, denied doping during his comeback from retirement in 2009 and 2010. And he said he wished he had co-operated with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation, which proved his downfall.
UK Anti-Doping was not impressed by Armstrong's confession to a worldwide television audience. In a statement it said: "Cheating in any form is not and should not be permitted and anyone considering doping should be well aware of the potential consequences."