Media reports say Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs
Source tells CNN the former cyclist in talks to repay some sponsorship money
Interview with Winfrey lasted 2 1/2 hours
Armstrong apologizes to cancer foundation workers for their stress
Appetites already whet by Lance Armstrong’s reported admission to Oprah Winfrey of performance-enhancing drug use, we now eagerly wait to see what else the disgraced cycling legend puts on the table with the talk show queen.
The first part of their 2 1/2-hour interview airs on Winfrey’s OWN cable network and the Internet Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Whatever transpires, Armstrong’s carefully constructed public persona has been altered forever.
Livestrong: Come clean
The cancer charity Armstrong founded urged the fallen star to come clean, ahead of the interview airing.
“We expect Lance to be completely truthful and forthcoming in his interview and with all of us in the cancer community,” Livestrong said in a statement released Wednesday. “We expect we will have more to say at that time.”
In October, Armstrong resigned as chairman of the charity he founded “to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career,” according to a statement posted to the group’s website at the time. A few weeks later, he left the board entirely amid concerns that his involvement was harming the charity.
On Monday, he visited the charity and “expressed his regret for the stress the team suffered in recent years as a result of the controversy surrounding his cycling career,” the organization said in a statement.
“Inspired by the people with cancer whom we serve, we feel confident and optimistic about the Foundation’s future and welcome an end to speculation,” the group said.
As part of his public reclamation project, Armstrong might pay back part of the money he received from the U.S. Postal Service, which sponsored the cyclist and his team while he was winning six of his Tours de France, a source familiar with the situation said.
The source said Armstrong was in negotiations to repay some of the money.
ESPN reported in 2011 that the agency, which is not taxpayer funded, paid more that $31 million to sponsor the team during the final four years of its agreement.
A spokeswoman for the postal service said: “We are not in a position now to discuss any of the legal issues associated with these developments and the prior relationship between the U.S. Postal Service and Mr. Armstrong, but we will do so at an appropriate time.”
Armstrong won the Tour de France a record seven straight years, beginning in 1999. The postal service sponsored the team from 1996 to 2004.
Slipping from his pedestal
The court of public opinion came down decidedly against Armstrong this week after he acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denials.
“This guy is a loser and a liar!!” Melinda Morgan said on CNN’s Facebook page. “He is not sorry for what he did, he is sorry that he got caught!!”
Margaret Midkiff said there’s no hope of Armstrong reviving his career. “He’s lied to folks way too long.”
Cycling fan Beverlee Ring said she has “mixed feelings” about the Winfrey interview.
“He should apologize and do whatever it takes to begin the healing,” she said in a submission to CNN’s iReport. “Now is when the real work begins for Lance.”
But Gretta Michellé said it’s too late for redemption.
“He had the opportunity to be honest from the beginning and he should have,” she posted on the Facebook page. “Winning was more important.”
Sanctions still stick
Armstrong’s reported admissions, if true, would be a stunning reversal after years of vigorous denials, including lawsuits filed against accusers.
But it still will not be enough to reverse the lifetime ban and other sanctions that have kept him from participating in some triathlons, the three-event sport he took up after retiring from cycling.
“Only when Mr. Armstrong makes a full confession under oath, and tells the anti-doping authorities all he knows about doping activities, can any legal and proper process for him to seek any reopening or reconsideration of his lifetime ban commence,” said David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Critics find vindication
Those who spoke out against Armstrong at the height of his power and popularity, not only felt his wrath, but the wrath of an adoring public.
Now, stripped of endorsement deals and his titles, those who did speak out are feeling vindicated.
Former colleagues, assistants and journalists who ran afoul of the Armstrong machine, complained of being blackballed, ostracized and the object of lawsuits designed to shut them up.
“Eleven years of bullying and threats,” Kathy LeMond, the wife of cyclist Greg LeMond – one of Armstrong’s earliest targets – wrote on Twitter. “LA is now the Greatest Fraud in the History of Sports.”
Once a close friend of Armstrong, cyclist Frankie Andreu had a falling out with him after his wife, Betsy, began to cooperate with a reporter working on a book about doping allegations against Armstrong.
She recently told Cycling News that “grown men were torn to shreds by Armstrong,” and said she was “extremely grateful” to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for its investigation that resulted in a lifetime ban for Armstrong and loss of his seven Tour de France titles.
‘What Joe Public thinks of me I don’t care,” Andreu told the New York Daily News. “I care what my family and close friends think of me. When it affects my husband’s ability to work then it’s grossly unfair. Who knows how many jobs he lost because I refused to lie to protect Lance.”