|Disgraced American Armstrong’s point man denies cyclist admitted cheating in TV chat
Disgraced American rider Lance Armstrong has admitted to US talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs in a lengthy interview to be aired on Thursday, USA Today reported.
A confession would mark a stunning reversal after Armstrong spent years strenuously denying doping allegations, sticking to his story even after being publicly shamed and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year, AFP reports.
The US Anti-Doping Agency said the American cyclist helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.
Winfrey was set to appear on CBS television's This Morning to promote the interview. She did not reveal details ahead of its broadcast on her OWN cable network and its website, but took to Twitter to say the exchange had lasted more than two and a half hours. “He came READY!’’ she tweeted.
The announcement that Armstrong had agreed to an interview had sparked widespread speculation that he might finally confess to being a drug cheat after years of adamant denials.
Reporters, photographers and TV crews took up positions earlier across the street from Armstrong's opulent Austin home, where the interview took place and which is surrounded by an eight-foot high stone wall.
USA Today, which cited an unnamed person familiar with the interview as saying Armstrong had admitted doping, had earlier indicated that the cyclist did not plan to go into specifics.
Armstrong's spokesman Mark Fabiani declined to address the reports, saying: “We have an arrangement with Oprah's team not to comment until the show is broadcast and we are honoring that.’’
Before the taping, Armstrong personally apologized to staff members at Livestrong, the charity he founded to support cancer survivors.
“Lance came to the Livestrong Foundation's headquarters today for a private conversation with our staff and offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they've endured because of him,'' Livestrong spokeswoman Rae Bazzarre told AFP.
She added that Armstrong urged Livestrong staffers “to keep up their great work fighting for people affected by cancer.’’
The Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised almost US$500 million since its creation 16 years ago. In the wake of the allegations, several top sponsors dumped Armstrong, and on November 14, Livestrong dropped his name from the foundation.