Sport

Oprah: Armstrong admitted doping

Wednesday, January 16, 2013    

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong has finally come clean.

Armstrong confessed to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey taped Monday, just a couple of hours after a wrenching apology to staff at the Livestrong charity he founded and has now been forced to surrender.

The emotional day ended with two and a half hours of questions from Winfrey at a downtown Austin hotel, where she said the world's most famous cyclist was "forthcoming" as she asked him in detail about doping allegations that followed him throughout his seven Tour de France victories.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said yesterday she had not planned to address Armstrong's confession before the interview aired on her OWN network but, "by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it".

"So I'm sitting here now because it's already been confirmed," she added.

The session was to be broadcast tomorrow, but Winfrey said it will now run in two parts over two nights because there is so much material.

Winfrey would not characterise whether Armstrong seemed contrite, but said he seemed ready for the interview. "I would say he met the moment," she said.

The confession was a stunning reversal for a proud athlete and celebrity who sought lavish praise in the court of public opinion and used courtrooms to punish his critics.

For more than a decade, Armstrong dared anybody who challenged his version of events to prove it. Finally, he told the tale himself after promising over the weekend to answer Winfrey's questions "directly, honestly and candidly".

The cyclist was stripped of his Tour titles, lost most of his endorsements and was forced to leave Livestrong last year after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issued a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of master-minding a long-running doping scheme.

The International Cycling Union, or (UCI), issued a statement yesterday saying it was aware of the reports that Armstrong had confessed to Winfrey. The governing body for the sport urged Armstrong to tell his story to an independent commission it has set up to examine claims it covered up suspicious samples from the cyclist, accepted financial donations from him and helped him avoid detection in doping tests.

Armstrong started Monday with a visit to the headquarters of Livestrong, the charity he founded in 1997 and turned into a global force on the strength of his athletic dominance and personal story of surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.

About 100 Livestrong staff members gathered in a conference room as Armstrong told them "I'm sorry". He choked up during a 20-minute talk, expressing regret for the long-running controversy tied to performance enhancers had caused, but stopped short of admitting he used them.

Before he was done, several members were in tears when he urged them to continue the charity's mission, helping cancer patients and their families.

"Heartfelt and sincere," is how Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane described his speech.

Armstrong later huddled with almost a dozen people before stepping into a room set up at a downtown Austin hotel for the interview with Winfrey. The group included close friends and lawyers. They exchanged handshakes and smiles, but declined comment.

Winfrey has promoted her interview, one of the biggest for OWN since she launched the network in 2011, as a "no-holds barred" session, and after the voluminous USADA report — which included testimony from 11 former teammates — she said she went into the session with 112 questions ready to go. Not all of them were asked, she said, but many were.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, a long-time critic of Armstrong, called the drug regimen practised while Armstrong led the US Postal Service team "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen". USADA did not respond to requests for comment about Armstrong's confession.

Armstrong is said to be worth around $100 million. But most sponsors dropped him after USADA's scathing report — at the cost of tens of millions of dollars — and soon after, he left the board of Livestrong.

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