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Armstrong Reportedly Admits To Doping In Oprah Interview

Jan 15, 2013
Originally published on January 15, 2013 7:54 pm



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

After years of denial, former cycling champion Lance Armstrong has reportedly admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs. He made the admission as part of an extensive interview with Oprah Winfrey. It's scheduled to air over two nights beginning on Thursday. Few details have been released so far. On "CBS News This Morning," Oprah described the interview as difficult but said Armstrong was forthcoming.

The cyclist also met yesterday with the staff at Livestrong, the cancer charity he helped found. He is said to have apologized to them for any stress they endured over the past several months.

NPR's Tom Goldman has followed Armstrong's career and his fall from grace. He joins us now. Hey there, Tom.


CORNISH: So tell us more about what Oprah had to say today.

GOLDMAN: Well, not a lot of substance at least, as in what exactly did Armstrong say in the interview. Obviously that's by design. This is all a tease until Thursday night, when Armstrong will, we are told and as you said, admit that he used banned drugs during his cycling career. Now that still may be a shock to some, although a growing number of people have a similar reaction as Lynn Zinser of The New York Times, who wrote today: Lance Armstrong admitted using banned drugs; in other news, the world is round.

So this morning, Oprah wouldn't give details or say if Armstrong was contrite in their two and a half hour interview. She did answer why she thought he decided to do this now.

OPRAH WINFREY: I think he was just - he was just ready. I think the velocity of everything that's come at him in the past several months, and particularly in the past several weeks, he was just ready.

CORNISH: Tom, what would be the benefits to Lance Armstrong of confessing?

GOLDMAN: It depends on how deep this confession goes. Now, Winfrey said today that Armstrong, as you mentioned, was forthcoming; that he met the moment; that she was satisfied by the answers. The New York Times is reporting that in the interview, Armstrong rebuts the claim that he was leader of a doping program; that he merely did what his teammates were doing.

Now, of course, the massive U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report from late last year laid out in great detail how Armstrong, in fact, was the team leader, who encouraged and even told his teammates they needed to get on a doping program if they wanted to stay on his teams.

So there is a great interest to see just how forthcoming he is. It'll determine several things, Audie: what kind of personal redemption he'll achieve through this; if he's light on details and negates a lot of the USADA report, the public may not react favorably. If he hopes a confession will help get a lifetime ban reduced, as far as competing in marathons and triathlons, anti-doping bodies say he has to be extremely forthcoming and helpful as far as, you know, providing evidence and testimony against other people and organizations that aided in his doping.

CORNISH: And what about those lawsuits that Lance Armstrong has been facing? Where do those stand?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, there are unconfirmed reports that the Justice Department is recommending joining a federal whistleblower lawsuit brought by former cyclist and teammate Floyd Landis, as a way of reclaiming tens of million of dollars in sponsorship money, when Armstrong rode for the U.S. Postal Service teams. A person familiar with the lawsuit tells NPR it's not clear that DOJ will do anything public on Thursday; that's the purported deadline for Justice to intervene.

That's the most significant of the cases facing him. Another one involves him possibly having to repay a reported half a million dollars from a libel suit with the Sunday Times of London. So there's a lot of potential liability that comes with the confession. Makes you wonder again why he's doing it.

CORNISH: That was NPR's Tom Goldman, talking about Lance Armstrong and his reported admission to using performance-enhancing drugs. Tom, thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.