Lance Armstrong fell from grace the way Hemingway described bankruptcy: gradually, and then suddenly. Accused for years of being involved in a wide-ranging doping scandal, Armstrong was stripped of most of his honors, including his seven Tour de France titles. In January 2013, he finally came clean about his doping usage in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Now, in some of his first public comments since that date, Armstrong appears to be shoring up his position as the true seven-time champion, regardless of what any sanctioning body might say. In an interview with Outside magazine, Armstrong spoke at length about those disputed wins.
"Yes, I feel that I won the races," Armstrong said. "I know that is not a popular answer, but the reality is that ... [the doping era in cycling] was just a messy time. It was basically an arms race, and we all played ball that way."
The Tour de France currently does not recognize a winner during Armstrong's seven years of victory of 1999 to 2005, and he believes that's wrong, contending that it's "a mistake, and it would be disrespectful to the sport, to leave seven years empty."
Armstrong also believes that the riders who were there alongside him would have a similar answer. "Of course I'm going to say I won," he said, "but ask the guys that went and suffered with you and ask them, 'Did he win?' I think I know what they'd say."
He has long maintained that the jerseys are his, most notably in a November 2012 photo where he posed with the seven yellow jerseys he'd won.
Also Wednesday, Armstrong received a defeat in a Texas court, losing his bid to halt arbitration in a case involving him and SCA Promotions. The company had paid Armstrong a $12 million bonus in 2005 but sought to avoid paying that bonus, alleging that Armstrong was doping at the time. When Armstrong admitted to doping in 2013, the company sought restitution of its bonus payment.
Armstrong has already settled cases with the Sunday Times and Acceptance Insurance, which paid him a $3 million bonus. He still faces a federal lawsuit in which the government is seeking to recover more than $30 million paid by the U.S. Postal Service to Armstrong's teams.