Lance Armstrong says that he experienced PTSD and had intensive therapy – ‘all alone, one-on-one, 10 hours a day’

Lance Armstrong experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and used an intensive therapy approach in the years after he admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs, the former professional cyclist told “The Great Unlearn” podcast.

In what remains one of the most infamous scandals in sporting history, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in 2012 and was also asked to return all of the prize money he had earned from the victories between 1999 and 2005.

He first spoke publicly about taking performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, explaining how he used, among other things, erythropoietin (EPO) – which stimulates red blood cell production – testosterone, human growth hormone, and illegal blood transfusions.

“I went from hero to zero overnight,” the 52-year-old said on an episode of “The Great Unlearn” podcast released on Tuesday.

“A lot of people applauded that. A lot of people thought that was funny. A lot of people thought that I deserved that. And a lot of that’s right. I didn’t think it was funny, but I certainly deserved it.”

In his Oprah interview, Armstrong described himself as “deeply flawed” and “a bully … in the sense that I tried to control the narrative” around the extent of his doping, which the US Anti-Doping Agency called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program.”

Following his public confession, Armstrong was hit with a number of lawsuits. Most notably, he agreed to pay the US government $5 million in 2018 having admitted to doping while the US Postal Service was paying millions to sponsor his team.

“There was a mile-long list of lawsuits,” Armstrong told “The Great Unlearn” podcast. “Income went from some exorbitant amount to zero … You can’t go through all of these things without suffering PTSD.

“I think we as a society hear about PTSD and we associate that with people that have been at war and have lost comrades and have seen death and have killed people … PTSD is not exclusive to soldiers, it’s certainly not exclusive to me.”

Armstrong didn’t say on the podcast when and by whom his PTSD was diagnosed.

According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an “emotional response to a terrible event” and can be followed by “unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.”

Armstrong’s doping scandal even tarred the cancer charity Livestrong, which the Texas native founded in 1997, the year after he had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 25.

On “The Great Unlearn,” Armstrong said that he engaged in “couch therapy” in the years after his Oprah interview before deciding that he needed “something different and deeper” to cope with his PTSD.

He said that he went to Onsite in Tennessee, a therapy and counselling retreat.

“Onsite is five days [of therapy], all alone, one-on-one, 10 hours a day,” said Armstrong, likening it to “surgery” when his previous experience of therapy was a “Band-Aid.”

He also said that he “threw [him]self into fitness and health” in the years after his doping confession. “I ran a lot,” he added, “I swam. It’s not necessarily a workout [but] I picked up the game of golf.”

CNN has attempted to contact Armstrong for further comment. Onsite declined to comment.

In an interview with CNN in 2014, Armstrong explained that he wasn’t considering therapy, saying: “My therapy is riding my bike, playing golf and having a beer.

“Look, we all have these events in our lives, whether it’s good, bad or medium. I haven’t gotten around to [therapy]. I get it, totally, but it’s not something that’s taken place yet.”

These days, Armstrong said that he exercises every day – swimming is his “favorite, go-to” workout – and also has two podcasts, “THEMOVE,” which is about cycling and the Tour de France, and “The Forward,” in which he interviews a different guest each episode.

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