Lance Armstrong finally has confronted his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career, though he “did not come clean in the manner that I expected,” talk show host Oprah Winfrey said a day after interviewing the disgraced athlete.
Armstrong, 41, has always vehemently denied using the drugs and had never tested positive in a doping test. But the evidence against him has been overwhelming and pressure has been building on him to admit that he cheated.
USA Today reported on Monday that Armstrong had confessed to the doping in the interview with Winfrey, which will air on Thursday and Friday on her OWN Network, and other media say they have confirmed the report.
In an appearance on CBS' “This Morning” show on Tuesday, Winfrey did not explicitly say that Armstrong had confessed during their interview.
“I think the most important questions and answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered,” Winfrey said of the interview, which occurred at a hotel in Austin, Texas, and lasted more than two hours.
“We were mesmerised and riveted by some of his answers,” said Winfrey, who described Armstrong’s demeanour as thoughtful and serious and at times emotional.
When asked why the American cyclist agreed to the interview, Winfrey said: “I think he was just ready.” She added that she would allow others to decide if he had shown contrition.
The reports about his admissions followed Armstrong's apology to the staff of the cancer foundation he had started over difficulties they may have experienced because of the doping controversy.
“He had a private conversation with the staff, who have done the important work of the foundation for many years,” said Livestrong Foundation spokeswoman Katherine McLane. “It was a very sincere and heartfelt expression of regret over any stress that they've suffered over the course of the last few years as a result of the media attention,” she said.
Any confession by Armstrong that he took drugs could have legal or financial ramifications, particularly among big-name corporate sponsors such as Nike that had loyally stood by him even as doping allegations grew. Since the International Cycling Union effectively erased him from the record books, Britain’s The Sunday Times has sued Armstrong for more than £1 million ($1.6 million) over a libel payment made to him in 2006.
It had paid Armstrong £300,000 to settle a libel case after publishing a story suggesting he may have cheated, and now wants that money plus interest and legal costs repaid.
On Sunday, the Sunday Times took out an ad in the Chicago Tribune newspaper setting out 10 questions that Oprah should ask Armstrong. “Is it your intention to return the prize money you earned from Sept 1998 to July 2010?” read one question. “Did you sue the Sunday Times to shut us up?” went another.
A Texas insurance company has also threatened legal action to recoup millions of dollars in bonuses it paid him for multiple Tour victories.