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Getting Personal, Armstrong Recounts Difficult Talk With His Kids

We updated the top of this post at 10:20 ET:

Lance Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey that he's lost many things recently: a $75 million sponsorship deal, the leading role in his Livestrong cancer awareness program and the adulation of countless supporters.

But in the lengthy interview, spread over two nights and two-and-a-half hours, the only time Armstrong choked up was when he recalled how he had to explain to his kids that he had been lying for years about not doping when he was cycling.

"I saw my son defending me and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad is not true,' " Armstrong said of Luke, 13, the oldest of his five kids. "That's when I knew I had to tell him."

Winfrey pressed him several times, as Armstrong paused, wiped his nose and appeared near tears.

"I said, 'I want you to know that it's true [the doping allegations],' " he said. "They didn't say much ... they just accepted it. I told Luke, I said, ... 'Don't defend me anymore.' "

"How did he take it?" Winfrey asked.

"He's been remarkably calm and mature about this," Armstrong said. "He just said, 'Look, I love you. You're my dad. This won't change that.' I'd expected something. I guess you always expect something."

While the interview that aired Thursday night focused mostly on questions about Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs, the Friday segment explored more personal issues.

At the end of the interview, Winfrey asked Armstrong if there was a moral to his story. He said he didn't have a good answer, but went on to add:

"The ultimate crime is the betrayal of these people who supported me and believed in me, and they got lied to," he said.

Update at 9:50 ET. Explaining To His Kids:

Armstrong has shown little emotion in the interview. But he had to stop and compose himself when Winfrey asked what he said to his three older kids, Luke, 13, and his twin daughters, 11.

(He had the children with his ex-wife, Kristin. He also has two young kids from his current relationship.)

"They know a lot. They hear it in the hallways, not a lot. Their schools, their classmates have been very supportive," Armstrong said.

Winfrey pressed Armstrong several times. "What did you say?"

"I said, 'I want you to know that it's true [the doping allegations],' " he said. "They didn't say much ... they just accepted it. I told Luke, I said, ... 'Don't defend me anymore.' "

"How did he take it?" Winfrey asked.

"He's been remarkably calm and mature about this," Armstrong said. "He just said, 'Look, I love you. You're my dad. This won't change that.' I'd expected something. I guess you always expect something."

Asked about his mother, Armstrong said, "She's a wreck."

Update at 9:29 ET. Apologizing To Supporters:

Winfrey asked Armstrong if he thought his doping may have caused or contributed to the testicular cancer he suffered in the mid-1990s.

"I don't think so. I'm not a doctor. I've never had a doctor tell me that, suggest that to me," he said.

When asked how he felt toward the many fans and supporters who had believed in him, Armstrong answered:

"I say I understand your anger, your sense of betrayal. You supported me forever through all of this, and I lied. And I'm sorry," he said.

Armstrong has been banned, not only from cycling, but from other officially sanctioned sporting events. He noted, for example, that he would not be able to compete in marathons.

"If you're asking me if I want to compete again, the answer is, 'Hell, yes,' " he said. "Would I like to run the Chicago Marathon when I'm 50? I'd love that."

Armstrong noted that many other cyclists who admitted to doping were suspended from cycling for six months, while he was banned for life.

"So I got a death penalty and they got six months," he said. "I'm not saying that's unfair necessarily, but it's different ... I deserve to be punished. I'm not sure I deserve the death penalty."

Update at 9:12 pm ET. Getting Dropped From Livestrong:

Armstrong said his sponsors began dropping him last fall, but the toughest moment came when Livestrong, the cancer awareness foundation he started, asked him to step down.

"That was the most humbling moment," Armstrong said. "The foundation is like my sixth child .... to make that decision and step aside was big."

Our Original Post:

Well, at least it was a good night for Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong drew 3.2 million viewers on her struggling Oprah Winfrey Network on Thursday night.

That made it the second-highest-rated program since the cable channel launched in 2011, trailing only an interview she did last year with Whitney Houston's family shortly after the singer's death.

The second part of the Armstrong interview airs Friday night at 9 p.m. EST. We'll be live blogging just as we did last night.

Here's a sampling of the reaction to Thursday night's interview, where Armstrong admitted using performance-enhancing drug in all seven of his Tour de France victories from 1999 through 2005.

-- Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA):

"His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction but if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities."

-- Livestrong, the cancer foundation set up by Armstrong:

"We at the Livestrong Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us.

"Even in the wake of our disappointment, we also express our gratitude to Lance as a survivor for the drive, devotion and spirit he brought to serving cancer patients and the entire cancer community."

-- Emma O'Reilly, Armstrong's former masseuse, who accused him of cheating and was sued by Armstrong:

"I had only ever spoken about it because I hated seeing what some of the riders were going through, because not all the riders were as comfortable with cheating as Lance was," she told Britain's ITV television. "And you could see when he went over to the 'dark side' — personalities change — and it was an awful shame."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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