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Lance Armstrong set to break silence over doping

posted 15 Jan 2013, 09:58 by Mpelembe   [ updated 15 Jan 2013, 09:59 ]

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong will appear on the Oprah Winfrey talk show -- prompting speculation that he will confess to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career.

PARIS, FRANCE (REUTERS) -  Lance Armstrong taped an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday (January 15) in which he is expected to break his silence about doping within cycling teams with which he has ridden.

Armstrong won seven Tour de France races consecutively from 1999 to 2005 but last year was stripped of all the wins after he failed to counter accusations by the United States Anti Doping Authority (USADA) that his U.S. Postal Service team ran "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

Armstrong became famous in 1996 when he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, was treated with aggressive therapy and fought back to fitness. He won his first Tour in 1999 to great acclaim.

He returned to the Tour year after year, using a tight team around him to win and set records. However some reporters, particularly in France, suggested that Armstrong was winning through doping and headline stories broke in 2005 to that effect.

The American rider took legal action against journalists and won damages fromLondon's Sunday Times but gradually more and more rumours circulated. A former team mate Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour de France but was then stripped of the win after failing a dope test. He subsequently implicated Armstrong.

In 2012 a series of riders testified to USADA, and the Anti Doping Authority laid out its evidence in 200 pages, then called on Armstrong to answer the allegations. He declined to do so and USADA urged that he be stripped of all race wins. He was also banned for life from cycling, preventing him from taking part in triathlon competition.

At a news conference in October, Union Cyclisme International (UCI) chief Pat McQuaidsaid that Armstrong had "no place" in the sport, and cycling needed to embark on a process of repairing its tarnished image.

"UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling and UCI will strip him of his seven Tour deFrance titles. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," McQuaid said.

After the ban, Armstrong continued to describe the evidence against him as "noise out there" and said he was concentrating on his cancer charity work. But the allegations bounced back on his charity foundation Livestrong and he stepped down from its board to limit the damage.

Armstrong published a photograph on Twitter showing himself relaxing in a room in his house, surrounded by the yellow jersies he had won on the Tour de France.

Former Tour de France winner Greg Lemond has called on Armstrong to confess fully.

"That would be the best thing that he could ever do," he told Reuters Television in December. "I would be...I said I would shake his hand because I think he didn't act alone, he's not the only person," he said.

After steadfastly denying involvement in drugs Armstrong agreed earlier this month to an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah, on Twitter, offered little more other than to say Armstrong came prepared for the interview.

"Just wrapped with @lancearmstrong More than 2 1/2 hours. He came READY," Winfrey tweeted.

But the television host hinted she would provide some more snippets before the full interview was aired.

The interview was supposed to take place at Armstrong's Texas home but was switched to a hotel in downtown Austin after news crews camped outside his house before dawn.

New York Times reporters Juliet Macur said Armstrong was a past master at handling interviews and getting his own message across.

"A lot of people keep asking me if Lance is going to cry and I'm not sure, I go back and forth. Lance is a master of changing his personality to fit the situation. This is why he's so successful. He's a very smart guy and he knows what people want. Basically Americaand the people that followed him as an inspiration for cancer. I think they want him to cry. I think they want him to say 'I am so sorry for deceiving you'," Macur said.

Armstrong has already apologised to Livestrong staff on Monday (January 14).

Before the talk show, his fans in his hometown Austin said they were already greatly disappointed.

"Well I'm a fan of Lance Armstrong and it's sad for everything that's going on, for what he has done and meant. Not only to the cycling industry per se and all that was accomplished but all of his followers and the Livestrong Foundation and all that. It's sad. It's sad," said Dwight Mackenzie.

"We watched him win seven times and we all just stood in amazement and now to find out it was based on lies. It hurts all of us," said Russell Williams.