Tess Quinlan

Lance Armstrong moving on after performance-enhancing drugs scandal

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In an exclusive interview with Mike Tirico, Lance Armstrong shared what he learned and how he’s moving on after the performance-enhancing drugs scandal that rocked the Tour de France and the entire sport of cycling.

Armstrong candidly said, “I don’t want to make excuses for myself that everybody did it or we never could have won without it. Those are all true, but the buck stops with me and I’m the one who made the decision to do what I did.”

“Primarily, I wouldn’t change the lessons that I’ve learned. I don’t learn all the lessons if I didn’t act that way. And I don’t get investigated and sanctioned, if I don’t act the way I act. If I just doped and didn’t say a thing, none of that would’ve happened.”

“I was asking for them to come after me and it was an easy target…It’s taken years and years of introspective, and work and therapy and just understanding what it meant.”

When asked when if he remembered the first time he did a performance-enhancing drug of any type, Armstrong said the first time he took a legitimate banned substance was in 1993, but had taken other undetectable substances as early as 1991.

“Was there a feeling that if you didn’t do it, you couldn’t compete?” Tirico asked.

“That wasn’t a feeling, that was a fact,” Armstrong said.

As for denying his PED usage for years, Armstrong put it simply: To him, there was no difference in attacking in the mountains vs. attacking in the press conference.

“I couldn’t turn it off. I mean, huge mistake. We’d all love to go back in life and have a few do overs. Never should’ve taken it on, especially knowing what most of what they said was true…I knew the truth, but it’s tough to stop (lying) once you start.”

You can watch the entire “Lance Armstrong: Next Stage” special here or the video embedded above.

Tennis’ Big 3: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic still rule tennis

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The Big 3 are still very much around. They’re still leading the rankings, still collecting the biggest trophies. And they’re still the dominant figures in men’s tennis, responsible for the main storylines when the French Open starts Sunday.

Roger Federer returns to Roland Garros for the first time since 2015 — and a decade after he completed the career Grand Slam by winning his only trophy there. Rafael Nadal seeks a record-extending — and hard-to-fathom — 12th title in Paris. Novak Djokovic bids to win his fourth major championship in a row for the second time in his career, something neither of his two great rivals ever did even once.

They occupy the top three spots in the rankings, with Djokovic followed by Nadal, then Federer. They occupy the top three slots on the list of most men’s Grand Slam titles, with Federer’s 20 followed by Nadal’s 17 and Djokovic’s 15. And they have combined to win the past nine major tournaments, with three apiece.

“Nadal’s reign is never over. Just like Federer’s reign isn’t ending,” said Riccardo Piatti, who coached Djokovic when the Serb was a teen and has worked with other top-10 players. “As long as they play, they’re always very dangerous. But let’s not forget that Djokovic is No. 1.”

Might seem silly now, but there was a stretch when some wondered whether this group might be done with all of that winning.

Federer, who’s now 37, went 4½ years without adding to his Slam count. He dealt with knee surgery and recurring back problems. He sat out the 2016 French Open, ending a streak of 65 straight major appearances, then missed the U.S. Open and Rio Olympics that year, too. He skipped the entire clay-court circuit each of the last two years, before finally coming back this season and reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome, where he withdrew, citing an injured right leg.

“In practice in Switzerland, I felt good right away,” Federer said about what it initially was like for him on the slow surface, which requires extra footwork and lengthy, grind-it-out exchanges. “Very happy where I’m at, to be quite honest. I was a bit surprised that it went as easy as it did.”

Nadal, who turns 33 during the French Open, did not win a title all season until last week at the Italian Open, which is mainly surprising because it means he kept faltering on his beloved clay.

He’s been sidelined by hand and knee injuries in 2019, and his play hasn’t always been up to his usual standards.

“Been some low moments for me,” he said.

But Nadal looked a lot more like himself in Rome, where he handed opponents a total of four 6-0 sets, including one against Djokovic in the final.

Asked to look ahead to Paris after that three-set loss, Djokovic said: “Nadal, No. 1 favorite, without a doubt. Then everyone else.”

“He’s one of the greatest champions this game has ever seen,” Djokovic said. “His mentality, his approach, his resilience, ability to fight back after long absence from the tour, injuries, surgeries. He’s had it all. He keeps on showing to the world why he’s one of the biggest legends of tennis history.”

Djokovic, who turned 32 on Wednesday, missed the last half of 2017 with a bad right elbow; he eventually had surgery last year, which he began with a 6-6 record and losses in the Australian Open’s fourth round and French Open’s quarterfinals. He was so bothered by the latter, which stretched his major title drought to two years, that he left Roland Garros in a huff, declaring he might skip Wimbledon.

So much for that.

Not only did he play at the All England Club, he won the trophy. Then he did the same at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, making him the only man in tennis history with three separate streaks of three consecutive majors. Now Djokovic has a shot at a non-calendar Grand Slam, something he already accomplished in 2015-16 — and can set his sights on a true Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same season, which only has been done by two men: Donald Budge in 1938, Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969.

And Djokovic has looked good on clay lately, winning the title in Madrid before losing to Nadal in Rome.

So now, really, the question is: How much longer can this terrific trio continue to thrive and hold off talented up-and-coming players such as 25-year-old Dominic Thiem, who lost to Nadal in last year’s French Open final, or 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Federer in Australia in January before losing his first Grand Slam semifinal to Nadal?

“Time is undefeated and these guys are doing a hell of a job of fighting it off, but it has to come at some point,” said International Tennis Hall of Fame member Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. “Once these guys are gone, there’s a serious vacuum. … Roger, Rafa and Novak — they’re arguably the three best of all time.”

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AP Sports Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.

Derby officials say Maximum Security broke interference rule

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Officials cited Maximum Security for interference and the colt became the first Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified for violating a state regulation that penalizes horses for impeding the path of another in a race.

Stewards, who supervise the outcome of horse races, referenced Section 12 of rule 810 KAR1:016. The rule calls for disqualification if “a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey.” Stewards determined that Maximum Security interfered with the path of several horses as the field of 19 rounded the final turn in Saturday’s race.

Maximum Security crossed the line first by 1 3/4 lengths before two jockeys filed objections against the horse for interference. Stewards took 22 minutes before overturning the finish and elevating Country House to first while dropping Maximum Security to 17th.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chief steward Barbara Borden said she and two other stewards interviewed riders and observed several video angles of the incident and determined that Maximum Security impeded the progress of War of Will and interfered with Long Range Toddy and Country House.

Maximum Security co-owner Gary West strongly disagreed with the ruling and said he is considering several options, which could include appealing the stewards’ decision.