On the eve of Monday’s taped interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong made a series of phone calls to apologize directly to key people in the cycling community with whom he had not been truthful about his part in sports doping.
It was part of Armstrong’s effort to prepare himself and others for what’s anticipated to be a partial confession and to make amends with those to whom he lied and misled.
Earlier Sunday while out jogging near his Austin home, Armstrong told the Associated Press regarding the upcoming interview: “I’m calm, I’m at ease, and I’m ready to speak candidly.”
Armstrong’s conversation with Winfrey will mark the first public comments he has made about the widespread allegations in a 1,000-page document released last fall by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
That document, based in part on the testimony of 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates, led to his being stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and being barred from competition in October by cycling’s international governing body. It concluded that Armstrong’s cycling heroics were the result of “the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
The interview will be edited to 90 minutes and broadcast on the OWN cable network and streamed via the Internet on Thursday evening, with portions released in advance for publicity purposes.
Any admission of wrongdoing will mark a dramatic departure for Armstrong, who for more than a decade has adamantly denied any use of performance-enhancing drugs or banned blood-doping practices.
There are aspects of the USADA report that Armstrong is expected to dispute — characterizations of fact, as well as characterizations of him personally as a vengeful, vindictive bully who forced teammates to dope along with him and threatened those in position to expose him.
On one hand, a confession and apology by Armstrong could help repair some of the damage to his reputation as a corporate pitchman and charitably-minded sporting champion.
Armstrong, 41, was dropped by sponsors Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek and others in the wake of his banishment from competition. A survivor of testicular cancer, he also resigned from the board of the Livestrong Foundation that he started in 1997 to help others facing a cancer treatment.
On the other hand, any confession carries considerable risk, given the lawsuits that are pending and those currently being weighed against him.
The U.S. Justice Department is considering joining a whistleblower suit, filed by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis, whose own doping led to his being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, alleging that Armstrong defrauded the federal government of tens of millions of dollars by violating his contract to compete “clean” for the U.S. Postal Service cycling team.