LANCE Armstrong will be grilled by Oprah Winfrey in his first public interview since he was stripped of his Tour de France titles in disgrace.
Amid speculation that Armstrong may confess in the near future in an attempt to compete again, the US talk show host has announced a “no holds barred” interview, which will air in the US in a 90-minute episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter on Thursday, January 17.
It will also be streamed live worldwide on Oprah.com.
“Looking forward to this conversation with lancearmstrong,” Winfrey posted on her Twitter site. Armstrong re-tweeted the comment 15 minutes later.
In the interview, Winfrey will speak with Armstrong at his home in Austin, Texas.
In a press release, Winfrey’s network OWN said the interview would “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”.
A report in the New York Times last week suggested that Armstrong was preparing to admit using banned drugs and blood transfusions during his career in exchange for a reduction to his lifetime ban from cycling.
Armstrong has so far vehemently denied doping. It is not known if he will admit to the practice on Winfrey’s show.
In October, the US Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong from cycling for life and stripped him of all of his results, including seven Tour de France victories.
In a damning report, the organisation concluded Armstrong helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in the history of the sport.
And in a 60 Minutes special set to air in the US tonight, the head of the USADA claims that Armstrong attempted to donate around $250,000 to the organisation back in 2004.
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said he was bowled over by the “totally inappropriate” offer from one of Armstrong’s representatives in 2004 which he immediately turned down.
“I was stunned,” Tygart says in the interview. “It was a clear conflict of interest for USADA. We had no hesitation in rejecting that offer.”
Asked if the offer was in the range of $250,000, Tygart tells the interviewer, “It was in that ballpark.”
The television program distributed Tygart’s comments on Tuesday ahead of the interview being telecast.
Tygart, who described Armstrong’s heavy-handed tactics as being mafia-like, denounced a $100,000 donation Armstrong made previously to the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Armstrong’s lawyer Tim Herman told USA Today yesterday that there was never a donation attempt from the cyclist.
“No truth to that story,” Herman told the newspaper. “First Lance heard of it was today. He never made any such contribution or suggestion.”
The UCI effectively erased Armstrong from the cycling history books when it decided not to appeal sanctions imposed on Armstrong by USADA.
The massive report by USADA included hundreds of pages of witness testimony, emails, financial records and laboratory analysis of blood samples.
“We have an obligation to clean athletes and the future of the sport. This was a fight for the soul of the sport,” Tygart said.
US federal officials investigated Armstrong and his cycling team for two years but failed to charge him.
The decision not to charge Armstrong stunned Tygart. He was also shocked when the US Justice Department refused to share the results of their probe with him.
Asked why he thought the Justice Department refused to bring charges, Tygart said, “It’s a good question and one that if you finally answer, let me know.”
Tygart said Armstrong and his secretive inner circle of doctors, coaches and cyclists acted like mafia the way they intimidated cyclists into using performance-enhancing drugs.
“It is our job … to protect clean athletes. There are victims of doping,” Tygart said.