Lance Armstrong, the world famous Tour de France champion and cancer activist, has admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he did in fact use performance enhancing drugs. This admission comes years after vehement denials from the athlete.
According to news reports, the admission of drug use was made during a more than two hour interview with Oprah Winfrey which will air, potentially in a two part series, on the Oprah Winfrey Network beginning at 9 p.m. ET Thursday.
Specifics have not been released about the taped session, but sources confirm that it was an often emotional discussion. Reports also indicate that Lance Armstrong has suggested he may be willing to repay some of the sponsorship money which was paid to him by the United States Postal Service, the teams Tour de France sponsor. Sponsorship funds reportedly were close to $31 million during the final four years of the agreement. The postal service sponsored the team from 1996 to 2004.
Prior to the Oprah Winfrey interview, Lance Armstrong also stopped by the offices of the Livestrong Foundation to apologize to staffers, although there was no mention of his steroid use. His message to the group included an encouragement for them to continue to work hard to help cancer survivors and their families.
The interview with Oprah is the first of its kind. Lance Armstrong has fought against allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs for more than a decade, although dozens of former cyclists admitted to drug use and implicated Lance Armstrong as well.
Although Lance Armstrong hopes to reenter the world of competitive sports and continue participating in Ironman triathlons , the more likely outcome of his confession is that he may have opened himself up to a flurry of legal action and lawsuits. Its hard to imagine, however, that Armstrong has not considered all possible legal issues that he might face prior to his admission. Those close to him note that he has been surrounded by the best legal team for years.
Lance Armstrong had succeeded in convincing many fans he was a victim of undue criticism by taking more than 500 drug tests over the years and never failing one. The USADA also noted that it had tested Armstrong less than 60 times and the International Cycling Union conducted about 215 tests. All of which he passed. What has also been verified by former teammates, however, is that other cyclists had also succeeded in passing tests- a fact that did not prove they were not doping.
Lance Armstrong has done many positive things. His supporters argue that he has brought status to the sport of cycling, he is a cancer survivor and he has raised millions of dollars for other cancer victims and their families.
But is all the good enough to overshadow the years of lying, the reported threats to other teammates and the deception? Only history will tell. I would compare it to another beloved sports icon, Joe Paterno. Will you remember that he was a fantastic coach who inspired numerous young men over the years or that he failed to speak up and tell the truth when he had the chance? The same may be said about Lance Armstrong.