Lance Armstrong will acknowledge using performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career today in a television interview as part of a plan to rehabilitate his image, USA Today reported, citing two unidentified people with knowledge of the situation.
The interview with Oprah Winfrey will be taped today at Armstrong’s home in Austin, Texas, and broadcast in a 90-minute episode Jan. 17 on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Armstrong, 41, plans to say he used performance-enhancing drugs without giving any detail on specific cases and events, USA Today said. Armstrong has repeatedly denied using drugs to further his cycling career. USA Today said Armstrong hopes his confession is the start of a multiyear healing process that may help him be judged more favorably because of his work fighting cancer and due to his domination of the sport in an era in which doping was the norm.
“I’m calm, I’m at ease, and I’m ready to speak candidly,” Armstrong was quoted by the Associated Press as saying yesterday while jogging near his home.
Tim Herman, Armstrong’s attorney, didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Armstrong was banned from competing for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in August and stripped of his seven Tour de France victories after declining to take the case to arbitration.
He lost the titles for what the USADA later said was a “career fueled start to finish by doping.” He forced teammates to dope or be fired from his team, and himself transfused blood and used testosterone and erythropoietin, or EPO, the agency said.
Armstrong faces a potentially unchangeable public perception as a cheater and his best course of action would be a confession, not an apology, though even that wouldn’t be a cure-all, said Jane Jordan-Meier, founder and chief executive officer of the Media Skills Academy in Fairfield, California.
“Apologies have become an art form and most of us don’t believe them anymore,” Jordan-Meier said in a phone interview last week. “A confession, which is something that’s highly elevated, more spiritual, must absolutely come from the heart. It must be believable, it must be visceral in its very being, because that’s how we react to people in a crisis.”
Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer before conquering the sport of cycling, created Livestrong, the largest athlete-founded charity, which has raised more than $470 million since 1997, according to its website. Following USADA’s report, he severed ties with the foundation after years as perhaps the most well-known public figure in the fight against cancer.
In addition to stepping down from Livestrong, Armstrong was also dropped by several sponsors. Nike Inc. pulled its support for him one week after the USADA report.
A week later, Oakley Inc. severed its “long-standing relationship” with Armstrong to become the last big company to fall in the cyclist’s sponsor lineup. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Trek Bicycle Corp., and energy supplement makers FRS and Honey Stinger also dropped the athlete.
For Armstrong, the interview may at least be a first step in the right direction.
“It’s never too late,” Jordan-Meier said. “People confess on their death beds and it gives them peace of mind, because there’s some dignity restored. It would bring back some integrity to the sport, to the fans, to themselves.”