AS DAYS OF preparations dwindled to hours before his blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong went out for a training run and then retreated behind the stone walls of his Austin compound to huddle with a handful of close advisers.
After more than a decade of denying that he doped to win the Tour de France seven times, Armstrong was scheduled to sit down today for what has been trumpeted as a “no-holds barred,” 90-minute, question-and-answer session with Winfrey.
He is expected to reverse course and apologise, as well as offer a limited confession about his role as the head of a long-running scheme to dominate the prestigious bike race with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. Winfrey and her crew will film the interview at Armstrong’s home and broadcast it Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
If he was feeling any pressure, Armstrong hardly showed it during a jog under bright skies Sunday, even as members of his legal team began arriving one-by-one at his home nearby.
“I’m calm, I’m at ease and ready to speak candidly,” he told The Associated Press, but declined to reveal how he would answer questions about the scandal that has shadowed his career like an angry storm cloud.
Armstrong was stripped of all seven Tour titles last year in the wake of a voluminous US Anti-Doping Agency report that portrayed him as a ruthless competitor, willing to go to any lengths to win the prestigious race. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart labeled the doping regimen allegedly carried out by the U.S. Postal Service team that Armstrong once led, “The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Yet Armstrong looked like just another runner getting in his roadwork when he talked to the AP, wearing a red jersey and black shorts, sunglasses and a white baseball cap pulled down to his eyes. Leaning into a reporter’s car on the shoulder of a busy Austin road, he seemed unfazed by the attention and the international news crews that made stops at his home. He cracked a few jokes about all the reporters vying for his attention, then added, “But now I want to finish my run” and took off down the road.
The interview with Winfrey will be Armstrong’s first public response to the USADA report. A person with knowledge of the situation told the AP on Saturday that Armstrong will give a limited confession and apologise. He is not expected to provide a detailed account about his involvement, nor address in depth many of the specific allegations in the more than 1,000-page USADA report.
In a text to the AP on Saturday, Armstrong said: “I told her (Winfrey) to go wherever she wants and I’ll answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly. That’s all I can say.”