Asked if Lance Armstrong came across as contrite in confessing to having used performance-enhancing drugs during his taped interview on Monday, Oprah Winfrey told “CBS This Morning” that she’d leave that to the viewer to decide when the program airs later this week, adding: “I can only say I was satisfied by the answer. . . .
“He did not come clean in the manner I expected,” Oprah said during a segment promoting the interview, which will be aired over two nights on her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). “It was surprising to me. I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized by some of his answers. . . .
“I felt he was thorough. He was serious. He certainly prepared himself for this moment. I would say he met the moment. At the end of it, we both were pretty exhausted.”
The specifics of Armstrong’s admissions remain unclear. The Associated Press reported Monday that he admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs, citing a source, but offered no additional details.
In the introduction to Tuesday morning’s segment with Winfrey, CBS reported that Armstrong is in talks with U.S. Justice Department officials about returning a portion of the roughly $35 million that the U.S. Postal Service paid his cycling team in sponsorship dollars. Justice Department officials are weighing whether to join a whistleblower lawsuit that has been filed by former cyclist Floyd Landis alleging that Armstrong defrauded the government by doping, a violation of the Postal Service’s contract with the team.
The deadline for the Justice Department to decide whether to join the suit is Thursday, the day that the first installment of Winfrey’s interview is to air on OWN. As part of his talks with the Justice Department, CBS said, Armstrong has expressed a willingness to testify against others regarding doping activity on the pro cycling tour.
Winfrey’s interview marks Armstrong’s first public comments since he was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles in the wake of a damning report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong’s professional career was fueled start to finish by banned substances and blood-doping practices.
The interview was conducted at Austin’s Four Season’s Hotel on Monday afternoon.
On “CBS This Morning,” Winfrey explained that she e-mailed Armstrong months ago to express an interest in an interview, then met with him in Maui over the December holidays to discuss it further.
While she said both agreed the contents of the interview would be kept secret until it airs and is simultaneously streamed via the Internet, Winfrey said she was surprised to learn that news of his confession had leaked out by the time her flight from Austin to Chicago had landed. She carried the videotape with her in her purse. And given the extensive nature of the conversation, she and her team have decided to air the interview over two nights rather than one to prevent having to cut so much.
Winfrey said she wasn’t entirely clear why Armstrong chose to confess now, after having denied doping so vehemently for so many years.
“I think he was just ready,” Winfrey said. “The velocity of everything that has come at him in the past several months — particularly the past several weeks — he was ready.”
More on Lance Armstrong: