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Armstrong tells Winfrey the truth

After a decade of denial, Lance Armstrong has finally come clean: He used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.

The disgraced cyclist made the confession to Oprah Winfrey during an interview taped Monday, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the interview is to be broadcast Thursday on Winfrey's network.

The admission Monday came hours after an emotional apology by Armstrong to the Livestrong charity that he founded and took global on the strength of his celebrity as a cancer survivor who came back to win one of sport's most grueling events.

The confession was a stunning reversal, after years of public statements, interviews and court battles in which he denied doping and zealously protected his reputation.

Winfrey tweeted afterward, "Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY!" She was scheduled to appear on "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday to discuss the interview.

Even before the taping session with Winfrey began, Armstrong's apology suggested he would carry through on promises over the weekend to answer her 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 tied to performance-enhancers had caused, 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, helping cancer patients and their families.

"Heartfelt and sincere," is how Livestrong spokesman Katherine McLane described his speech.

Armstrong later huddled with almost a dozen people before stepping into a room set up at a downtown Austin hotel for the interview.

The group included close friends and advisers, two of his lawyers and Bill Stapleton, his agent, manager and business partner. They exchanged handshakes and smiles, but declined comment when approached by a reporter. Most members of that group left the hotel through the front entrance, although Armstrong was not with them.

No further details about the 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's, 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. He scolded some in public and didn't hesitate to punish outspoken riders during the race itself. He waged legal battles against still others in court.

Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. She called news of Armstrong's confession "very emotional and very sad," and got choked up as well 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.

Whether his confession would begin to heal those ruptures and restore that reputation remains to be seen.

The Canadian Press


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