Lance Armstrong set for Oprah Winfrey interview

Lance Armstrong at Clinton Global Initiative in New York 22 September 2010 Armstrong ended his fight against doping charges last August but maintained his innocence

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US cyclist Lance Armstrong will be interviewed by chat show host Oprah Winfrey, amid reports that he might publicly admit to doping.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the sport's governing body, following a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).

Winfrey's OWN network said the 90-minute interview would address "years of accusations of cheating".

Armstrong maintained his innocence as he received a life ban from Usada.

But the New York Times reported on Friday that the 41-year-old was considering a public admission that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs. An admission could lead to an apparent bid to return to competing in marathons and triathlons, the paper reported.

The interview announcement was first made on Oprah Winfrey's Twitter account on Tuesday, and confirmed when Armstrong retweeted it 15 minutes later.

The interview - his first since being stripped of his wins - will be broadcast on 17 January on Winfrey's OWN network and live-streamed online.

A spokeswoman for the Oprah show said Armstrong was not being paid to appear and that Winfrey was free to ask him any question she wanted.

She said in an email: "No payment for the interview. No editorial control, no question is off-limits."

The spokeswoman added that the network would not be revealing when filming would take place. The producers are also unlikely to release the transcript of the show before it is screened.

2004 donation offer?

Armstrong ended his fight against doping charges in August 2012. In October, Usada released a 1,000-page report saying he had been at the heart of "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme" ever seen in sport.

Analysis

Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong's former team and room-mate, himself an ex-doper, told me last year he hoped Armstrong would confess all, for his own sake. "He'll feel so much better the morning after," he said.

For Armstrong, though, the path from confession to catharsis to closure would have particular problems.

He has civil court cases against him following last year's ruinous Usada report.

If - and it's still a huge if - he confesses to doping, could he open himself up to perjury charges? And would his charities and his sport just watch his pirouette, and then keep their backs turned on him?

He was stripped of his titles by the International Cycling Union (UCI) shortly afterwards and given a lifetime ban from the sport.

Armstrong also resigned as chairman of the Livestrong foundation - the cancer charity he created - after the cycling body's decision.

His lawyer, Tim Herman, has described the Usada report as a "one-sided hatchet job" and the cyclist himself has accused the agency of offering "corrupt inducements" to other riders to speak out against him.

It is believed he is considering an admission because he wants to resume his athletic career, and has shown an interest in competing in triathlons.

Asked whether the 41-year-old was set to come clean, Mr Herman told the New York Times: "Lance has to speak for himself on that."

The BBC understands Armstrong has held recent discussions with other cyclists who have themselves confessed to doping.

But there are a number of obstacles to a full confession.

The New York Times reported Armstrong's supporters are concerned he could face perjury charges if he confesses to using performance-enhancing drugs, because he made sworn testimony in a 2005 court case that he had never done so.

In addition, the cyclist faces a number of legal cases:

• A federal whistle-blower case filed by former team-mate Floyd Landis which accuses Armstrong and several United States Postal Service cycling team officials of defrauding the government by allowing doping

• A civil lawsuit brought by Dallas-based insurance company SCA Promotions, which paid millions of dollars to Armstrong for his Tour victories

• A civil lawsuit by the UK's Sunday Times newspaper to recover $500,000 paid to Armstrong to settle a 2006 libel lawsuit after it published claims from a French book co-authored by its then sports editor

Separately, the head of Usada told a US investigative programme that Armstrong had offered the agency a donation of some $250,000 in 2004, reports said.

Speaking to 60 Minutes Sport, to be broadcast in the US on Wednesday, Travis Tygart said the offer was a "clear conflict of interest" and quickly rejected.

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