Oprah: “I don’t think ‘emotional’ begins to describe” my interview with Armstrong

posted at 4:31 pm on January 16, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Lance Armstrong has had a few months now to mull over the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s “reasoned decision” denouncing him for doping throughout his high-profile cycling career, and with his brand, his sponsorship contracts, and reputation all subsequently in tatters, it looks like he’s finally decided to take the PR-recovery route of a big, purging emotional sit-down with one of America’s favorite mediators. The interview has yet to air, but ESPN reports that Oprah Winfrey confirmed that Armstrong has indeed confessed that — shocker — he did in fact use banned substances and doping methods throughout his career (…just like pretty much every other modern professional cyclist, ever).

Armstrong confessed to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey taped 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. …

Winfrey would not characterize whether Armstrong seemed contrite but said he seemed ready for the interview. “I would say that he met the moment,” she said.

“I don’t think ‘emotional’ begins to describe the intensity or the difficulty he experienced in talking about some of these things.” …

The World Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong must confess under oath to seek a reduction in his lifetime ban from sports. …

WADA said “only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath — and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities — can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence.”

Oprah, however, might not be the only party Armstrong has approached of late. If, as VeloNews suggests, Armstrong has any intention of speaking with the USADA directly about a real confession, the possibility of cycling’s international governing bodies’ complicity would have deep-seated implications for the sport at large. In a nutshell, it could blow this whole thing wide open:

But giddiness over the surreal possibility of the studiously intransigent Armstrong following the Oprah star-contrition script — shedding tears of remorse, offering apologies to the injured — quickly washed away the more important sporting story. Just days before the news of the Oprah interview surfaced, The New York Times’ Juliet Macur, citing unnamed sources close to the situation, reported that Armstrong had spoken to U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials regarding a possible confession.  …

Just like the riders who solidified USADA’s case against Armstrong, he will need to not only acknowledge his own role, but also supply useful information on parties still involved in the sport.

[T]he fallen champion may simply wish to prove that he was not alone, that his actions were merely those of a man trying to be the best in a thoroughly corrupt system. In short, to bring everyone else down with him. Either way, the possibility of Armstrong talking to USADA should leave a number of people fairly uncomfortable as confession rumors continue to simmer.

I’ve been highly skeptical of the USADA’s investigation, not because it was incorrect or because Armstrong doesn’t deserve harsh judgment for what was clearly years of shady misconduct, but because one of the biggest complaints about cycling is the old-world corruption and nefarious bureaucracies of the sport’s governance. The USADA is only kinda’-sorta’ quasi-governmental, but it does receive plenty of taxpayer funding, and it broke some of its own rules to take down what they determined to be a kingpin (and if sketchy money really never changed hands anywhere here, I’ll eat my hat). But, the general consensus in the cycling community seems to be that if anything had a prayer of changing the sport’s culture, this was the appropriate fuel for the outrage fire — and there may be plenty more sport-wide fallout to come.

Anyhow, if Armstrong & company thought that just having out with it and apologizing profusely would perhaps help him in the court of public opinion in America, I think it’s safe to say that it is not going to help him solve any of his emerging technical difficulties:

Justice Department officials have recommended joining a federal whistleblower lawsuit aimed at clawing back sponsorship money from former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department has been weighing the matter since 2010, when the suit was filed by Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis.

All whistleblower suits are kept under seal, and neither the Justice Department nor Landis have acknowledged the suit’s existence or the allegations. However, according to a person who has seen the lawsuit, Landis alleged that Armstrong and team managers defrauded the U.S. government when they accepted money from the U.S. Postal Service.

The Justice Department and Landis declined to comment.


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