Matthew McConaughey says he was initially angry with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong after it was revealed he had taken performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, but adds that he believes his longtime friend will be able to "deal" with the backlash and will be remembered more for "what he did for cancer."
Armstrong's involvement in a widespread program involving steroids, blood transfusions and human growth hormone was revealed in a report the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) published in October. He was then stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic Bronze Medal.
Armstrong confessed to using banned performance-enhancing drugs publicly for the first time in a two-part, widely-publicized interview on Oprah Winfrey's "Oprah's Next Chapter" series, which aired on her OWN cable channel last week.
"My first reaction was I was p---ed off," McConaughey told MTV News during a recent interview at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. "I was mad. I then got kind of sad for him and I took it kind of ... first off, I had a part of me that took it kind of personally, which I think a lot of people have and what I've realized is that those of us that took that personally, like, 'Oh, he lied to me' -- it's not true."
"What I mean by it is what was he supposed to do? Call me to the side and go, 'Hey man, I did it, but don't tell anybody'? Then I would've really had reason to be p---ed off at him," the actor added.
McConaughey was at the festival to promote his newest film, "Mud." He and Armstrong are both natives of Texas and have known each other for at least 14 years. They told Details magazine in 2006 that they became friends after they became single, following Armstrong's split from Sheryl Crow and after McConaughey and Penelope Cruz called it quits. The cyclist calls the actor "Redneck Buddha."
"A lot of people don't understand friendship and brotherhood," McConaughey said, according to People. "I have a great friend in him. I'd do anything he asked me to, even though he'd probably never ask me to, and he feels the same way. It's fun going out and living life and doing things at the drop of a hat. Livestrong just happens to be the most deliberate guy I've ever met."
After Armstrong's doping past was revealed, he stepped down as a board member of the Livestrong Foundation, a cancer support group he had formed in 1997. The organization, which aims to raise funds for patients and awareness about cancer, then dropped his name from its official title, which was the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong is a survivor of testicular cancer.
"In my opinion is that at the end of it all, this so-called life, his legacy will be what he did for cancer," McConaughey told MTV News. "That's what's gonna go on living and then, that's if he doesn't do anything else."
"DAGGERS" and "SPEARS"
Armstrong said during his interview with Winfrey that he was "deeply sorry" for what he did, adding: "I lost my way."
"Fourteen years, he lied and carried the lie with him," MccConaughey told MTV News. "Well, when I get myself out of the way and I think of him, I'm happy that he's choosing to say, 'You know what, I'm happy to hop into an authentic period of my life, and it's about running faster, it's about running further. I hope he'll be able to not necessarily compete, but get in and run and bike and still be the athlete that he still truly is."
"You know, he's going to take a lot of daggers and a lot of spears," he added." And some people are never going to forgive. And that's okay. That's okay. I'm not saying they should. And he'll be able to handle that as well. And that could go on forever."
During her interview with Armstrong, Winfrey told him, quoting a statement by his ex-wife Kristin, which is also a line from the Bible: "The truth will set you free."
"You know the old line, Oprah said the other night, that the 'truth will set you free' -- yeah, but she forgot one part: It's miserable in the beginning and it's gonna be miserable," McConaughey said. "But he's looking it in the eye and he'll handle it. He will deal and he's ready for how hard it's gonna be to deal. So, anyway, not selfishly, I'm happy that's he's entered into a part of his life that's gonna be free."
(Pictured above: Cast member Matthew McConaughey poses at the premiere of "Mud" during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 19, 2013 in Park City, Utah. / Lance Armstrong, left, and Matthew McConaughey celebrate the Texas 41-38 victory over Southern California in the Rose Bowl, the national championship college football game in Pasadena, California on Jan. 4, 2006. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Invision / AP / Chris Carlson)