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Lance Armstrong faces a day of tearful reckoning

AUSTIN, Texas — Cyclist Lance Armstrong's years of brash denials that he used performance-enhancing drugs came to a tearful end Monday.

In a 90-minute interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted that he cheated to win the Tour de France, according to the Associated Press, which cited a person familiar with the situation.

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.

After the interview, taped at a downtown Austin hotel, Winfrey tweeted: "Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 21/2 hours. He came READY!"

She was scheduled to appear on CBS This Morning today to discuss the interview.

Armstrong's apology to the Livestrong staff suggested he would carry through on promises over the weekend to answer Winfrey's 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, 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 Winfrey 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, 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."

Armstrong also went after his critics ruthlessly during his reign as cycling champion, scolding some in public and waging legal battles against others in court.

Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong. She called news of Armstrong's confession "very emotional and very sad," and got choked up when asked to comment.

"He used to be one of my husband's best friends and because he wouldn't go along with the doping, he got kicked to the side. Lance could have a positive impact if he tells the truth on everything. He's got to be completely honest," she said.

At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel lawsuit. Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring yet another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million an arbitration panel awarded the cyclist in that dispute.

Armstrong is said to be worth around $100 million. But most sponsors dropped him in the wake of the USADA report at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. Soon after, he left the board of Livestrong.

In addition, former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that accused Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether it will join the suit.

The lawsuit most likely to be influenced by a confession might be the Sunday Times case. Potential perjury charges stemming from Armstrong's sworn testimony in the 2005 arbitration fight would not apply because of the statute of limitations. Armstrong was not deposed during the federal investigation that was closed last year.

Armstrong talks

What: Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey

When: 9 p.m. Thursday

TV: Oprah Winfrey Network

Lance Armstrong faces a day of tearful reckoning 01/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 11:29pm]
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