It sounds as if one of the great lying acts in the history of sports will come to an end in Oprah Winfrey's televised interview with Lance Armstrong. The New York Times reporter who has been ahead on recent Armstrong revelations says that the former champion "confessed that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career, according to two people briefed on the interview." The session took place Monday in Austin and airs Thursday. Before the interview, Armstrong reportedly apologized to the staff of his cancer charity, Livestrong.
From Juliet Macur in the NYT:
It is unclear, though, how forthcoming Armstrong was about his doping program, which the United States Anti-Doping Agency has said was part of the most sophisticated, organized and professional doping scheme in the history of sports. Armstrong, when reached by e-mail Monday, said he could not discuss the interview.
Acknowledging his doping past has cleared the way for Armstrong to take the next step in trying to mitigate his lifetime ban from Olympic sports. He is planning to testify against several powerful people in the sport of cycling who knew about his doping and possibly facilitated it, said several people with knowledge of the situation.
Armstrong, 41, is planning to testify against officials from the International Cycling Union, the worldwide governing body of cycling, about their involvement with doping in cycling, but he will not testify against other riders, according to the people familiar with his plans.
He is also in discussions with the United States Department of Justice to possibly testify in a federal whistle-blower case. That case involves the cycling team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, and Armstrong would testify against several of the team’s owners, including the investment banker Thom Weisel, and other officials, one person close to the situation said. That person did not want his name published because the case is still open.
Armstrong "and possibly his longtime agent, Bill Stapleton," are also looking into repaying several millions of dollars of the more than $30 million the Postal Service spent sponsoring the team, the NYT source and CBS News report.
If Armstrong did come clean to Winfrey, it would end years of sanctimonious (and now apparently cynical) denials by Armstrong that included vicious personal and legal smears against riders and anti-doping officials who accused him of cheating (and attacks on news media who reported the charges.) Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles decided last year not to charge Armstrong after a lengthy investigation. It has been less than two years since "60 Minutes" aired a powerful piece with direct accusations against Armstrong, which he followed with vehement denials of and criticism of CBS.
In August, Armstrong essentially decided not to contest a mountain of new evidence from anti-doping authorities, and said he would simply move on in his life without ever talking about the issue again. But reportedly, he wants the world's athletic governing bodies to allow him to compete in triathlons and other events. There is no suggestion that by admitting he cheated for years and conspired to cover up the use of performance-enhancing drugs that he would be allowed to compete in cycling events ever again.
At the time that Armstrong defiantly flouted the anti-doping community one final times, LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote in his defense that the "anti-doping system...is the most thoroughly one-sided and dishonest legal regime anywhere in the world this side of Beijing."