Monday 22 January 2018

Oprah Winfrey: Lance Armstrong didn’t come clean as I expected

Lance Armstrong speaks to Oprah Winfrey
Lance Armstrong speaks to Oprah Winfrey

LANCE Armstrong "did not come clean in the way I expected," talk show host Oprah Winfrey said on Tuesday, a day after recording a lengthy interview with the disgraced cyclist.

Armstrong, 41, addressed accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs in his racing career in the interview with Winfrey, which will air on Thursday on Winfrey's OWN network.

In an appearance on CBS on Tuesday, Winfrey said she would leave to others to decide if Armstrong was contrite, but added that he was serious and thoughtful in the interview.

"I would say (Lance Armstrong) did not come clean in the manner I had expected. It was surprising to me," talk show host Winfrey told the CBS This Morning programme.

The first part of the Armstrong interview on the 'Oprah' show is due to be broadcast at 9pm local time on Thursday (2am GMT on Friday).

Winfrey said she was "satisfied" with Armstrong's answers during her interview, which will be aired over two nights because of its length.

She said she was "mesmerised and riveted" by some of his answers.

Winfrey thought the entire interview was difficult for the Texan and said he was "emotional" during it.

But she said Armstrong "certainly had prepared himself".

"I feel he answered the questions in a way that (suggested) he was ready," she added.

Asked if Armstrong was contrite during the interview, Winfrey said: "I choose not to characterise.

"I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I felt that he was thoughtful, I thought that he was serious, I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment. I would say that he met the moment."

Winfrey revealed no lawyers had been allowed at the interview at her request, although Armstrong did have a team of people in the room.

She added that at one point Armstrong asked her: "Will there be a point where you lighten up?"

The interview is to be broadcast on Thursday on Winfrey's OWN network.

Armstrong spent years strenuously denying doping allegations, sticking to his story even after being publicly shamed and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year.

It was Armstrong's first interview since he was stripped in October of his Tour titles, after the US Anti-Doping Agency said he helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.

Oprah did not reveal further details of the interview ahead of its Thursday night air date on her OWN cable network and its website, but took to Twitter to say the exchange had lasted more than two and a half hours. "He came READY!" she tweeted.

The announcement that Armstrong had agreed to an interview sparked widespread speculation that he might finally confess to being a drug cheat after years of adamant denials.

Reporters, photographers and TV crews took up positions earlier across the street from Armstrong's opulent Austin home, where the interview took place and which is surrounded by an eight-foot (2.4-metre) high stone wall.

USA Today had earlier indicated that the cyclist did not plan to go into great detail about specific cases and events.

Armstrong's spokesman Mark Fabiani declined to address the reports, saying: "We have an arrangement with Oprah's team not to comment until the show is broadcast and we are honouring that."

Before the taping, Armstrong personally apologised to staff members at Livestrong, the charity he founded to support cancer survivors.

"Lance came to the Livestrong Foundation's headquarters today for a private conversation with our staff and offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they've endured because of him," Livestrong spokeswoman Rae Bazzarre said.

She added that Armstrong - a cancer survivor who founded the charity in 1997 - urged Livestrong staffers "to keep up their great work fighting for people affected by cancer."

Since the International Cycling Union effectively erased Armstrong from the record books, The Sunday Times has sued him for more than £1m over a libel payment made to him in 2006.

By Brendan Gallagher,

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