Associated Press file photos
Associated Press file photos
Lance Armstrong is “ready to speak candidly” as he prepares to discuss doping allegations against him in his upcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Armstrong was out for a morning run Sunday when he spoke briefly with The Associated Press. The man who once ruled cycling was wearing a red jersey with black shorts, sunglasses and a white hat pulled down low.
He would not divulge what he will say in today’s interview from his home that is to be broadcast Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“I’m calm, I’m at ease and ready to speak candidly,” he said from the side of the road. “I hope we’ll talk for a couple of hours.”
The prospect of such a talk has brought international television crews to Armstrong’s hilly neighborhood in West Austin.
A person with knowledge of the situation told the AP that Armstrong will give a limited confession and apologize. That would be his first public response to a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report accusing him of using banned drugs to win the Tour de France.
The interview is not expected to go into great detail about specific allegations in the more than 1,000-page USADA report.
In a text to the AP on Saturday, Armstrong said: “I told her (Winfrey) to go wherever she wants, and I’ll answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly. That’s all I can say.”
Armstrong spent more than a decade denying that he doped to win the Tour de France seven times. A confession would be a stunning reversal after years of public statements, interviews and court battles from Austin to Europe in which he zealously protected his reputation.
Armstrong was stripped of his titles and banned from the sport for life last year after the USADA report accused him of leading a sophisticated and brazen drug program on his U.S. Postal Service teams that included steroids, blood boosters and a range of performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong hasn’t responded to the USADA report since he was stripped of his Tour de France titles. But shortly afterward, he tweeted a picture of himself on a couch at home with all seven of the yellow leader’s jerseys on display.
“His reputation is in crisis,” said crisis management expert Mike Paul, president of New York-based, MGP & Associates PR. “Most people don’t trust what comes out of his mouth. He has to be truly repentant and humble.”
He also has to be careful.
Armstrong is facing legal challenges on several fronts, including a federal whistle-blower lawsuit brought by former teammate Floyd Landis, who himself was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title, accusing him of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service. The Justice Department has yet to announce whether it will join the case.
The London-based Sunday Times also is suing Armstrong to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel lawsuit, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions has threatened to bring yet another lawsuit against Armstrong to recover more than $7.5 million an arbitration panel awarded him as a bonus for winning the Tour de France.
The only lawsuit potentially affected by a confession might be the Sunday Times case. Potential perjury charges stemming from his sworn testimony in the 2005 arbitration fight would not apply because of the statute of limitations. Armstrong was not deposed during a federal investigation that was closed last year without charges being brought.
However, he lost most of his personal endorsements – worth tens of millions of dollars – after the USADA report and he left the board of the Livestrong cancer-fighting charity he founded in 1997. He is still said to be worth about $100 million.
Livestrong might be one reason to issue an apology or make a confession. The charity supports cancer patients and still faces an image problem because of its association with Armstrong.
He may also be hoping a confession would allow him to return to competition in the elite triathlon or running events he participated in after his cycling career. But World Anti-Doping 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 new information Armstrong provides and his level of cooperation.
Armstrong met with USADA officials recently to explore a “pathway to redemption,” according to a report by “60 Minutes Sports” aired Wednesday on Showtime.