Armstrong admits to doping in sit-down with Oprah Winfrey
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:36AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:50PM EST
Oprah Winfrey said she’s satisfied disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong answered the “most important questions” about his doping past during their interview just hours after he apologized to staff at the cancer charity he founded.
Armstrong sat down with Oprah Winfrey shortly after visiting staff at the Livestrong charity that formerly bore his name on Monday.
His admission follows years of speculation, forceful denials and a damning report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that accused the former seven-time Tour de France winner of orchestrating a long-running doping scheme.
Leading up to the Winfrey interview, which was taped in Austin, Texas, Armstrong had vehemently denied the allegations, pointing out that he had never tested positive to a doping test. Over the weekend, however, Armstrong promised to answer Winfrey’s questions “directly, honestly and candidly.”
Speaking to ‘CBS This Morning’ the day after her two-and-a-half hour chat with Armstrong, Winfrey said he was well-prepared for the one-on-one.
“I feel that he answered the questions in a way that he was ready,” Winfrey said.
“I would say for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers,” she said. “The most important questions, and the answers that people around the world were waiting to hear, were answered. I can only say I was satisfied by the answers.”
Winfrey would not say whether she believed that Armstrong was truly sorry.
“I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not,” she said. “I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious.”
She added that Armstrong struggled at times to open up.
"I don't think 'emotional' begins to describe the intensity or the difficulty he experienced in talking about some of these things."
The TV personality said she and Armstrong had previously agreed not to comment on what was said during the interview before it aired. However, shortly following the taping, a number of media organizations confirmed that Armstrong had admitted to doping.
“By the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you already confirmed it,” Winfrey said.
The interview is expected to air in two-parts beginning Thursday.
But some say it is unlikely that Armstrong will elicit sympathy from viewers and those who stood by him over the years.
“I think the window for absolute forgiveness has long passed,” Canadian racing cyclist and Olympic medallist Curt Harnett told Toronto’s CP24.
“It’s the ego of Lance Armstrong that got him to this point,” he said, adding that Armstrong’s confession won’t be a “shocker” to a lot of people.
“There was a lot of evidence against him,” Harnett said. “For me, the big question is: what’s next?”
Harnett said he hopes Armstrong will take action to return the prize, donation and sponsorship money he collected over the years. He also hopes that the confession will lead to changes in professional cycling competitions so that athletes don’t feel like they have to turn to performance-enhancing drugs.
Meanwhile anti-doping officials want Armstrong to confess under oath, before they’ll consider lifting a lifetime ban that keeps him from competing.
Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu agrees that Armstrong should be honest.
“Lance knows everything that happened," Andreu told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "He's the one who knows who did what because he was the ringleader. It's up to him how much he wants to expose."
Armstrong has been in talks with USADA officials, prompting rumours that he may be open to providing information to officials.
The International Cycling Union urged the cyclist to tell his story to an independent commission it has established.
The commission will examine claims that cycling’s governing body hid suspicious samples from Armstrong, accepted cash donations and helped him pass doping tests.
If Armstrong testifies and implicates the sport’s governing body, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound says it’s possible cycling could be dropped from the Olympics altogether.
Armstrong reportedly apologized to the Livestrong staff for the long-running controversy that had plagued the charity during his visit Monday. The 41-year-old offered his staff a simple “I’m sorry”, though he stopped short of admitting to doping.
He urged the 100 staff members present to continue with the charity’s mission to help cancer patients and their families. A spokesperson for the charity told AP Armstrong’s 20-minute talk was “heartfelt and sincere.”
The cancer survivor who went on to become one of the greatest cyclists the world had been accused for years of cheating his way to the top.
The 1,000-page USADA report described Armstrong as the ringleader of the "most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
According to the report, the scheme involved the use of steroids, blood boosters and other performance-enhancing drugs. Testimony from 11 former teammates, as well as his wife Betsy, is also included.
In October 2012, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles and issued a lifetime ban from cycling. The cyclist also lost most of his multi-million dollar endorsements and he was forced to leave the Livestrong Foundation.
After the USADA findings, Armstrong was also banned from competing in elite triathlon or running events. World Anti-Doping Code rules state his lifetime ban cannot be reduced to less than eight years, however officials at the anti-doping organizations could agree to reduce the ban further depending on what information Armstrong provides and his level of cooperation.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina and files from The Associated Press