Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey interviews cyclist Lance Armstrong during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" on Monday. The two-part episode will air nationally Thursday and Friday.
World Anti-Doping agency wants full confession — under oath — from Armstrong; UCI probed for alleged involvement in drug-testing cover-up
LONDON — Lance Armstrong must make a full confession under oath — not just an admission in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey — if he wants authorities to consider lifting his lifetime ban from sports, the director of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday.
WADA director general David Howman told The Associated Press that Armstrong’s interview with Winfrey is “hardly the same as giving evidence to a relevant authority” that deals with doping rules and sanctions.
“He’s got to follow a certain course,” Howman said. “That is not talking to a talk show host.”
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from Olympic sports last year following a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that portrayed him as a longtime performance-enhancing drug user. After years of denials, he confessed to doping during an interview with Winfrey taped Monday.
Armstrong has been in conversations with USADA about a possible confession to authorities and a path to restoring his eligibility.
Howman said a reduced ban is possible depending on the level of cooperation.
“Is he trying to do something for himself to have the sanctions changed?” Howman said. “Does he want to do something for the benefit of the sport itself? In both instances, he will need to make a full statement on oath.”
International Olympic Committee vice president Thomas Bach said Armstrong should provide a complete confession to USADA or WADA.
“The TV interview is not the right platform,” he told the AP.
The International Cycling Union, meanwhile, urged Armstrong to testify before its independent commission on doping to shed light on allegations that include whether the UCI helped cover up his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Cycling’s governing body said it was aware of reports that Armstrong had confessed during the Winfrey interview, which will be broadcast over two nights on Thursday and Friday.
“If these reports are true, we would strongly urge Lance Armstrong to testify to the Independent Commission established to investigate the allegations made against the UCI in the recent USADA reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service (USPS) team,” the UCI said in a statement.
The UCI set up an independent panel in November to investigate the Armstrong case and what role the governing body had in the scandal. The UCI has been accused of covering up suspicious samples from Armstrong, accepting financial donations from him and helping him avoid detection in doping tests.
However, WADA and USADA each complained later Tuesday that the UCI panel is failing to offer amnesty to potential witnesses, which will discourage people from coming forward. The three-member UCI commission, chaired by retired British judge Philip Otton, will meet in London from April 9-26, with a June 1 deadline to deliver its report.
Bach, a German lawyer who leads the IOC’s anti-doping investigations, said a limited admission of doping by Armstrong will not be enough.
“This is not new,” he said. “If he says in general terms that he used prohibited substances, for himself and his reputation it would come a little late. For the fight against doping, it would not help. He has to show how he managed to get around the tests and whether there was somebody who helped him.”
In a statement from Montreal, Howman said WADA had followed “with interest” the reports of Armstrong’s confession but that more was needed.
“While WADA encourages all athletes to come clean about any doping activities they have been involved with or know about, these details must be passed on to the relevant anti-doping authorities,” he said. “Only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath — and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities — can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence.”
Howman also questioned whether life bans were the solution to cycling’s doping problems, saying that offering amnesty to riders who come forward with information would help the sport clean itself up.
“This is a very good opportunity for the page to be turned, once it has been fully written,” he said. “I don’t think it will be fully written unless all the stuff comes out, and to get all the stuff out there has to be consideration of some form of amnesty or forgiveness to those who have all the information.”
AUSTIN, Texas — “Emotional” doesn’t come close to describing Lance Armstrong’s conversation with Oprah Winfrey — an interview that included his confession about using performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles, Winfrey said Tuesday.
She recounted her session with Armstrong on “CBS This Morning” and promoted what has become a two-part special on her OWN Network, even while international doping officials said it wouldn’t be enough to save the disgraced cyclist’s career.
“I don’t think ‘emotional’ begins to describe the intensity or the difficulty he experienced in talking about some of these things,” Winfrey said.
Armstrong admitted during the interview at an Austin hotel that he used drugs to help him win the titles.
“It was surprising to me,” she said. “I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers.”
Winfrey said she went right at Armstrong with tough questions and, during a break, he asked if they would lighten up at some point. Still, Winfrey said she did not have to dig and that he was “pretty forthcoming.”
“I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious,” she said. “I thought that he certainly had prepared for this moment. I would say that he met the moment.”
The session was to be broadcast in a single special Thursday, but Winfrey said it will now run in two parts on consecutive nights — Thursday and Friday — because there is so much material. Winfrey would not characterize whether Armstrong seemed contrite, saying she’ll leave that to viewers.
The cyclist was stripped of his Tour titles, lost most of his endorsements and was forced to leave his cancer charity, Livestrong, last year after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.
Before the Winfrey interview, Armstrong visited 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.
“I’m sorry,” Armstrong told about 100 staff members gathered in a conference. He choked up during the 20-minute talk, expressed regret for the long-running controversy tied to performance-enhancers, but stopped short of admitting he used them.
“Heartfelt and sincere,” is how Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane described his speech.
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 said she was ready to go with 112 questions. Not all of them were asked, she said, but many were.
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, a longtime critic of Armstrong’s, called the drug regimen practiced while Armstrong led the U.S. Postal Service team “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” USADA did not respond to requests for comment about Armstrong’s confession.
Armstrong often went after his critics during his long reign as cycling champion. He scolded some in public and didn’t hesitate to punish outspoken riders during the race itself. He waged legal battles against others in court.
At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel case, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million awarded by an arbitration panel.
In Australia, the government of South Australia state said it will seek the repayment of several million dollars in appearance fees paid to Armstrong for competing in the Tour Down Under in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“We’d be more than happy for Mr. Armstrong to make any repayment of monies to us,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said.
Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. She called news of Armstrong’s confession “very emotional and very sad,” and choked up when asked to comment.
“He used to be one of my husband’s best friends and because he wouldn’t go along with the doping, he got kicked to the side,” she said. “Lance could have a positive impact if he tells the truth on everything. He’s got to be completely honest.”
Betsy Andreu testified in SCA’s arbitration case challenging the bonus in 2005, saying Armstrong admitted in an Indiana hospital room in 1996 that he had taken many performance-enhancing drugs, a claim Armstrong vehemently denied.
“It would be nice if he would come out and say the hospital room happened,” Andreu said. “That’s where it all started.”
Former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that accused Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service. An attorney familiar with Armstrong’s legal problems told the AP that the Justice Department is highly likely to join the lawsuit. The False Claims Act lawsuit could result in Armstrong paying a substantial amount of money to the U.S. government. The deadline for the department to join the case is Thursday, though the department could seek an extension if necessary.
According to the attorney, who works outside the government, the lawsuit alleges that Armstrong defrauded the U.S. government based on his years of denying use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The lawsuit most likely to be influenced by a confession might be the Sunday Times case. Potential perjury charges stemming from Armstrong’s sworn testimony in the 2005 arbitration fight would not apply because of the statute of limitations. Armstrong was not deposed during the federal investigation that was closed last year.
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.
After the USADA findings, he was also barred from competing in the elite triathlon or running events he participated in after his cycling career. WADA Code rules state his lifetime ban cannot be reduced to less than eight years. WADA and U.S. Anti-Doping officials could agree to reduce the ban further depending on what information Armstrong provides and his level of cooperation.