Disgraced former cycling champion Lance Armstrong will break his silence on losing his seven Tour De France titles to Oprah Winfrey next Thursday. There are suggestions he might use the show to publicly strike a deal with those who banned him from the sport for life.
During a 90-minute interview on "Oprah's Next Chapter" from his home in Austin, Texas, the 41-year-old Armstrong will address the doping allegations that led to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to strip him of the titles and ban him, something he has denied vehemently for more than a decade.
The New York Times has reported that Armstrong told associates he is considering admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions during his cycling career so that the USADA would rescind the ban. The Times' unnamed sources said he would admit the information in order to restore his eligibility in athletic events such as triathlons and running events.
A source told The Times that wealthy supporters of Livestrong, Armstrong's beloved cancer charity of which he was chairman after surviving testicular cancer, have been trying to persuade him to come forward so he could clear his conscience and save the organization from further damage.
According to the World Anti-Doping Code, an athlete might be eligible for a reduced punishment if he fully confesses and details how he doped, who helped him dope, and how he got away with doping. But a reduced lifetime ban might be decreased only to eight years or four years, at best, anti-doping experts said.
If Armstrong decides to come clean, Winfrey's show might be a good place to do it, considering her far-reaching audience.
Armstrong attorney Tim Herman has denied the Times' claim that his client will come clean.
"No truth to that story," Herman said. "First Lance heard of it was today. He never made any such contribution or suggestion."
On Tuesday, another accusation surfaced. The USADA's chief executive, Travis Tygart, said in a CBS interview that in 2004 the cycling phenom offered to donate "in excess of $150,000" to the anti-doping agency in charge of keeping American athletes from using performance-enhancing drugs.
Regardless of whether Armstrong decides to address Tygart's claim or come clean about doping all together, the OWN network assures viewers that it will be a riveting interview.
"Oprah Winfrey will speak exclusively with Lance Armstrong in his first no-holds-barred interview," a news release says. "Armstrong will address the alleged doping scandal, years of accusations of cheating, and charges of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his storied cycling career."
Winfrey broke the news to fans via Twitter on Tuesday night.
OWN is partly owned by the Discovery Channel, which sponsored Armstrong in 2005 when he won his seventh Tour De France. The New York Times blog "The Lede" speculates that Winfrey might go easy on the former star athlete, and that the two took a friendly photograph in 2004 of Winfrey leaning on Armstrong as he stood next to his bike.
The USADA issued a 200-page report Oct. 10 after a wide-scale investigation into Armstrong's alleged use of performance-enhancing substances, detailing the hotel rooms that riders transformed into makeshift blood-transfusion centers to the way Armstrong's former wife rolled cortisone pills into foil and handed them out to all the cyclists. There were 26 people who testified against Armstrong, including 11 former teammates.
Armstrong, who won his titles from 1999 to 2005 on the U.S. Postal Service team, was given the chance to take his case to arbitration in August and declined, choosing to accept the sanctions instead.
Nike, Anheuser-Busch, and other sponsors dropped him soon after, and the fallout prompted the testicular cancer survivor to resign as chairman of Livestrong.
"This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart,” he said in a statement a week after the case was resolved. "Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."
Armstrong, who Forbes estimates is worth about $125 million, was not paid a salary as Livestrong chairman and will remain on the charity's 15-member board. Since its inception 15 years ago, the charity says it has raised more than $400 million.
Armstrong's sponsors have come out and said they will still support the charity. Vice chairman Jeff Garvey, who was founding chairman in 1997 when it started as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, took Armstrong’s post.
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