Lance Armstrong ended a decade of denial by confessing to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The admission Monday came hours after an emotional apology by Armstrong to the Livestrong charity that he founded and turned into a global institution on the strength of his celebrity as a cancer survivor.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the interview is to be broadcast Thursday on Winfrey’s network. She tweeted afterward, “Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!” She was scheduled to appear on “CBS This Morning” today to discuss the interview.
The confession was a stunning reversal for Armstrong after years of public statements, interviews and court battles in which he denied doping and zealously protected his reputation.
Even before the taping session with Winfrey began around 11 a.m., Armstrong’s apology suggested he would carry through on promises over the weekend to answer her questions “directly, honestly and candidly.”
The cyclist was stripped of his Tour de France titles, lost most of his endorsements and was forced to leave the foundation last year after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.
About 100 staff members of the charity Armstrong founded in 1997 gathered in a conference room as Armstrong arrived with a simple message: “I’m sorry.” He choked up during a 20-minute talk, expressing regret for the long-running controversy performance-enhancing drugs had caused, but stopped short of admitting he used them.
Before he was done, several members were in tears when he urged them to continue the charity’s mission of helping cancer patients and their families.
“Heartfelt and sincere,” is how Livestrong spokesman Katherine McLane described his speech.
No further details about the interview were available immediately because of confidentiality agreements signed by both camps. But Winfrey promoted it as a “no-holds barred” session, and after the voluminous USADA report — which included testimony from 11 former teammates — she had plenty of material for questions. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, a longtime critic of Armstrong’s, called the drug regimen practiced while Armstrong led the U.S. Postal Service team, “The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”