Lance Armstrong Confesses to Doping On Oprah: Justice Department Now Likely To Pile On In Lawsuit
Lance Armstrong has admitted to doping in his interview with Oprah Winfrey.
After 10 years of denial and persistent allegations, the former seven-time Tour de France champion confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs and offered a simple “I’m sorry” to friends and colleagues.
Promoted as a “no holds barred” interview by Winfrey, it was recorded yesterday at a downtown hotel in Austin, Texas after original plans to film at Armstrong’s home were changed.
After her interview with the former cyclist, Winfrey tweeted:
“Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours . He came READY!”
The Winfrey interview is scheduled to air on Thursday on her OWN network.
The disgraced cyclist’s admission came just hours after he also apologized to staff at the Livestrong cancer charity he founded in 1997 and later stepped down from.
According to The Associated Press (AP), a source close to the situation told them of Armstrong’s televised apology and confession, but spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The stunning reversal follows Armstrong’s promises — sent in a text to AP over the weekend — that he would answer Winfrey’s questions “directly, honestly and candidly.”
CBS News later confirmed Armstrong’s Winfrey admission and revealed that Winfrey will appear on CBS This Morning today to talk about her interview with Armstrong.
Armstrong huddled with almost a dozen people before stepping into a hotel room used for the Winfrey interview. The group included close friends, two of his lawyers, and his agent, manager and business partner Bill Stapleton.
The interview with Winfrey will be Armstrong’s first public response to to the devastating 1000 paged US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) 2012 report that leveled comprehensive doping and corruption allegations against Armstrong.
Reportedly, Armstrong did not address any of the specific allegations in that report in his interview with Oprah.
Now, in addition to the many private lawsuits already in progress against him, an attorney familiar with Armstrong’s legal problems has said that the US Justice Department is highly likely to join a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Armstrong by former teammate Floyd Landis, The Associated Press reports.
CBS News also reports that senior officials at the Justice Department have recommended that the US government join the suit. The False Claims Act lawsuit could result in Armstrong paying a vast amount of money to the government.
Ironically, the deadline for the Justice department to make their decision is Thursday — the same day that Winfrey’s interview airs — but the department could seek an extension if needed.
It was also revealed that Armstrong is in discussions with the Justice Department to return some of the millions in taxpayer dollars that he received on behalf of his US Postal Service team.
However, an attorney told AP that the two sides have yet to agree on the amount.
Following the news of the confession, South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said the state would seek the repayment of several million dollars in appearance fees that were paid to the cyclist for competing in the Tour Down Under cycle race in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He added that Armstrong “has deceived the cycling community around the world.”
Armstrong’s confession will also likely affect the outcome on an ongoing lawsuit the Sunday Times has filed against him for the return of thousands they paid to settle a libel case. Perjury charges will not apply as the statute of limitation has passed.
Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, who was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong of doping, told AP the news of Armstrong’s confession was “very emotional and very sad.”
“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.”
Although Armstrong is under a lifetime ban from cycling, elite triathlon, and running competitions, the USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) may reduce the ban to less than eight years depending on what information he gives them.
Despite the departure of corporate sponsors, Armstrong is still said to be worth around $100 million, AP notes.