Lance Armstrong confessed to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, just a couple of hours after a wrenching apology to staff at the Livestrong charity he founded and has now been forced to surrender.
The emotional day ended with 2 1/2 hours of questions from Winfrey, where she said the world’s most famous cyclist was “forthcoming” as she asked him in detail about doping allegations that followed him throughout his seven Tour de France victories.
Winfrey told CBS on Tuesday she had not planned to address Armstrong’s confession before the interview aired on her OWN network on Thursday but, “by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it.”
“So I’m sitting here now because it’s already been confirmed,” she added.
Winfrey said the interview will now run in two parts over two nights because there is so much material.
Winfrey would not characterise whether Armstrong seemed contrite but said he seemed ready for the interview. “I would say he met the moment,” she said.
The confession was a stunning reversal for a proud athlete and celebrity who sought lavish praise and used courtrooms to punish his critics.
For more than a decade, Armstrong dared anybody who challenged his version of events to prove it. Finally, he told the tale himself after promising over the weekend to answer Winfrey’s questions “directly, honestly and candidly.”
The cyclist was stripped of his Tour titles, lost most of his endorsements and was forced to leave Livestrong last year after the US Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.
The International Cycling Union, or UCI, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was aware of the reports that Armstrong had confessed to Winfrey. The governing body for the sport urged Armstrong to tell his story to an independent commission it has set up to examine claims it covered up suspicious samples from the cyclist, accepted financial donations from him and helped him avoid detection in doping tests.
Armstrong started Monday with a visit to the headquarters of Livestrong, the charity he founded in 1997 and turned into a global force on the strength of his athletic dominance and personal story of surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.
Armstrong told staffers “I’m sorry.” He choked up during a 20-minute talk, expressing regret for the long-running controversy tied to performance-enhancers had caused, but stopped short of admitting he used them.
“Heartfelt and sincere,” is how Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane described his speech.