January 15 - Lance Armstrong has finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career.
The disgraced American, who had always vehemently denied any allegations of doping, confessed, while offering his apologies to friends and colleagues, to talk show host Oprah Winfrey in a lengthy interview yesterday – to be aired on Thursday (January 17).
Armstrong was banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released a damning, 1,000-page report, including testimonies from 11 former teammates, claiming he had been involved in the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".
The USADA also deposed of 11 of Armstrong's former teammates and accused him of masterminding the drug programme, which involved anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, blood transfusions and other doping.
He was said to have been worth about $100 million (£62 million/€75 million) at the time but was dropped by most of his sponsors, including Nike and Oakley, in the aftermath of the scathing report.
Armstrong also stepped down from his post as chairman of the board of Livestrong, the cancer charity launched in 2003 by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which the cyclist founded in 1997, a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
A few weeks later, he quit the Board outright, saying he did not want the doping controversy to affect the organisation.
An entourage of about 10 close friends and advisers, including attorneys Tim Herman and Sean Breen and his long-time agent, manager and business partner Bill Stapleton, accompanied Armstrong to the interview - his first major appearance since the scandal broke - yesterday, but all declined to comment.
Last weekend Armstrong has said he would "answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly", although Winfrey said he "did not come clean in the manner that I expected".
Soon after, Winfrey, whose talk shows are the highest-rated in history, tweeted: "Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong more than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!"
In an appearance on CBS' This Morning show today, Winfrey, who described Armstrong's demeanour as thoughtful and serious and at times emotional, did not explicitly say that he had confessed during their interview, although she did say the media had confirmed it.
"I think the most important questions and answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered," Winfrey said of the interview.
"We were mesmerised and riveted by some of his answers."
When asked why the American cyclist agreed to the interview, Winfrey said: "I think he was just ready."
She added that she would allow others to decide if he had shown contrition.
Before the interview, Armstrong visited the Austin, Texas-based Livestrong to deliver an emotionally charged apology, which did not include a direct confession to using banned drugs, to about 100 staff members.
"I'm sorry", he told them as he choked up during the 20-minute talk, which brought several employees to tears, and urged the group to continue fighting for the charity's mission of helping cancer patients and their families.
No one in the room challenged him over his long and bitter denials of doping.
Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane described his speech as "heartfelt and sincere".
USADA declined to comment on Armstrong's confession.
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