When stories began circulating last week that Lance Armstrong might be considering making a confession, more than one joker on Twitter suggested that Oprah Winfrey might be just the person to facilitate such a discussion. Well, we don't know whether an admission of doping will be forthcoming, but Armstrong will be interviewed by Winfrey next Thursday, and what's more, the transmission will be streamed live worldwide on the Oprah.com website.
A press release published on Tuesday on Oprah.com suggests that anyone expecting a confession, however limited, shouldn't hold their breath. It reads:
Los Angeles, CA – Oprah Winfrey will speak exclusively with Lance Armstrong in his first no-holds-barred interview. Armstrong will address the alleged doping scandal, years of accusations of cheating, and charges of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his storied cycling career.
The special 90-minute Thursday night episode of Oprah's Next Chapter will air Thursday, January 17 (9:00 – 10:30 p.m. ET/PT) on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. In addition-the interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide on Oprah.com.
In the interview, Winfrey speaks with Armstrong at his home in Austin, Texas in the only interview since the seven-time Tour de France winner was stripped of his titles and dropped from millions of dollars in endorsement deals after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an extensive report accusing the renown cyclist of doping throughout his career. Armstrong was given a lifetime ban on competing professionally. Late last year, Armstrong resigned as chairman of the foundation he created, Livestrong, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the fight against cancer.
Whether Winfrey will pull her punches only time will tell, but she is certainly not the sort of media figure to be daunted by the Texan, even in his own home.
Armstrong's motives for doing the interview can only be guessed at, but since the weekend it has certainly seemed that the Armstrong camp is testing the waters ahead of some action by their man most likely some form of confession or partial confession. From a legal point of view any confession by Armstrong would be a dangerous gamble, but maybe the calculation is that a redeemed Armstrong can make more than he loses - even though he risks losing his freedom. He won't be making any money for his Oprah interview - not from the show anyway. According to a show spokeswoman contacted by the BBC Armstrong is not being paid for his appearance: "No payment for the interview. No editorial control, no question is off-limits." Interestingly she refused to say when the interview would take place leading some to conclude that it already has - the French newspaper, L'Equipe has already run a story to that effect.
Winfrey and Armstrong do share some common ground. Both have made high profile visits to Australia, and both those trips cost their host country's taxpayers dear - a fee estimated to be between A$3 million and A$5 million in the case of Winfrey for her Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure in 2010, while the previous year had seen Armstong trouser a fee generally reckoned to be A$2 million for his comeback race in the Tour Down Under. He'd be back for more the following year.
News of the programme comes as CBS prepares to screen an interview on its 60 Minutes Sports show on Wednesday evening with Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, in which he claims that Armstrong offered the organisation a 'donation' of $250,000 in 2004.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.