SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Lance Armstrong won’t go down alone.
The disgraced cyclist, who was labelled the kingpin of a long-running doping scheme, has reportedly owned up to cheating and is ready to point the finger at others who may have facilitated or shielded it.
Mr. Armstrong sat down for an interview Monday with Oprah Winfrey which stretched on so long it will air over two episodes.
“It was surprising to me. I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers,” she told CBS Tuesday morning, noting that she had researched and prepared 112 questions.
“I feel that he answered the questions in a way that [suggested] he was ready. I didn’t get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world had been waiting to hear were answered. And certainly, answered, I can only say I was satisfied by the answers.”
The public is expected to get its first glimpse of the material Thursday evening, with the remainder to air Friday, but leaks began to emerge almost immediately.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Armstrong had confessed using drugs to win the Tour de France a record seven times. The news will not surprise anyone who has read the enormous case built against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but his admission is a stunning turn after more than a decade of court battles and bitter denials.
And it appears that he is willing to go well beyond an admission that he cheated. Although he has apparently ruled out accusing other riders, the New York Times is reporting that he is willing to testify against top officials in cycling’s governing body and the investors who owned the United States Postal Service-sponsored team on which he rode for most of his victories.
Any exposé by Mr. Armstrong of corruption at the top level of the Union Cycliste Internationale, which oversees the sport, would be explosive. The cyclist once made a large cash payment to the UCI and there have long been allegations that the star got special treatment. Former Postal Service riders have testified that their team seemed to have advance knowledge of ostensibly surprise doping tests. And it was the passing of so many tests that formed the foundation of his public defence for years.
After the USADA material was made public UCI President Pat McQuaid said that Armstrong had “no place in cycling.” But critics noted that his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, who presided over the sport during the Armstrong era, remained at the organization, untouched by the scandal. In a statement Tuesday, the UCI said it would encourage Mr. Armstrong to come clean but declined further comment until they had seen the interview.
It’s unclear whether his willingness to give evidence extends to the case against his former team manager, Johan Bruyneel. A former pro who headed all of Mr. Armstrong’s winning Tour de France teams, he is facing his own accusations from USADA. He chose to fight the allegations and his arbitration hearing, which was to start in November, has been delayed for unexplained reasons. His website continues to tout Mr. Armtrong’s Tour victories but his blog has not been updated since a post in August in which he denounced USADA’s “campaign against” his former rider.
The possibility that Mr. Armstrong would give evidence against his former team’s owners comes as the United States Justice Department weighs whether to join a whistle-blower suit. The action was filed by former Postal Service rider Floyd Landis, who alleges the team defrauded the government by using drugs, in violation of the sponsorship contract. Under whistle-blower legislation, the penalty can rise to triple the amount of government funding, which would total more than $100-million.
That Justice Department decision must be made by Thursday, the same day the interview is to air, and several U.S. media outlets are reporting that Mr. Armstrong is willing to testify and repay part of the money he earned riding for the team.