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Armstrong: I don't deserve life ban

American cyclist Lance Armstrong says he should be given the chance to compete at sport's highest level again, despite admitting taking performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France victories.

The self-confessed drugs cheat told chat show host Oprah Winfrey he deserved to be punished, but "I'm not sure that I deserve a death penalty".

In the second part of the interview, Armstrong, 41, spoke of how his sponsors began deserting him in droves following the publication of a US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation last year, which he estimated cost him 75 million dollars.

But he said the hardest moment was when Livestrong, the charity he founded in the mid-1990s after his battle with testicular cancer, asked him to step aside. He said: "The foundation is like my sixth child and to make that decision, and to step aside, was big... It was the best thing for our organisation, but it hurt like hell. That was the lowest (moment)."

Armstrong also spoke of the impact the allegations and revelations had on his family, saying his mother had been left "a wreck".

He fought back tears as he described a conversation he had with his 13-year-old son Luke when he discovered he had been defending him at school.

Armstrong said: "That's when I knew I had to tell him. He'd never asked me. He'd never said, 'Dad, is this true?'. He trusted me. He heard about it in the hallways. I said, 'Don't defend me anymore'. I said, 'If anyone says anything to you, do not defend me. Just say my dad said he was sorry'. He said, 'Look, I love you, you're my dad, this won't change that'."

On Friday, Armstrong admitted for the first time that he had used a variety of methods to cheat during his career, including taking the blood-boosting agent EPO, human growth hormone and oxygen-boosting blood transfusions. The Texan was stripped of all his Tour de France titles and was banned from sport for life by USADA after it found him to be a central figure in "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

Armstrong also denied claims made by USADA that he offered the body a substantial donation while he was under investigation by the organisation. USADA's inquiry led to Armstrong's downfall and its chief executive Travis Tygart told 60 Minutes Sports last week that the Texan made the offer last year.

But Armstrong told Winfrey: "I had no knowledge of that, but I've asked around. I think the claim was 250,000 dollars. That's a lot of money. I would know. That is not true." A USADA spokesman told Press Association Sport: "We stand by the facts both in the reasoned decision and in the 60 Minutes interview."

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