<
>

Lance Armstrong apologizes to staff

1/14/2013

AUSTIN, Texas -- Lance Armstrong apologized to the staff at
his Livestrong cancer foundation before heading to an interview
with Oprah Winfrey, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting
told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the
discussion was private.

Stripped last year of his seven Tour de France titles because of
doping charges, Armstrong addressed the staff Monday and said,
"I'm sorry." The person said the disgraced cyclist choked up and
several employees cried during the session.

The person also said Armstrong apologized for letting the staff
down and putting Livestrong at risk but he did not make a direct
confession to the group about using banned drugs. He said he would
try to restore the foundation's reputation, and urged the group to
continue fighting for the charity's mission of helping cancer
patients and their families.

After the meeting, Armstrong, his legal team and close advisers
gathered at a downtown Austin hotel for the interview.

The cyclist will make a limited confession to Winfrey about his
role as the head of a long-running scheme to dominate the Tour with
the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, a person with knowledge of
the situation has told the AP.

Winfrey and her crew had earlier said they would film the
interview, to be broadcast Thursday, at his home but the location
apparently changed to a hotel. Local and international news crews
staked out positions in front of the cyclist's Spanish-style villa
before dawn, hoping to catch a glimpse of Winfrey or Armstrong.

Armstrong still managed to slip away for a run Monday morning
despite the crowds gathering outside his house. He returned home by
cutting through a neighbor's yard and hopping a fence.

During a jog on Sunday, Armstrong talked to the AP for a few
minutes saying, "I'm calm, I'm at ease and ready to speak
candidly." He declined to go into specifics.

Armstrong lost all seven Tour titles following a voluminous U.S.
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 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. Armstrong 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."

After a federal investigation of the cyclist was dropped without
charges being brought last year, USADA stepped in with an
investigation of its own. The agency deposed 11 former teammates
and accused Armstrong of masterminding a complex and brazen drug
program that included steroids, blood boosters and a range of other
performance-enhancers.

Once all the information was out and his reputation shattered,
Armstrong defiantly tweeted a picture of himself on a couch at home
with all seven of the yellow leader's jerseys on display in frames
behind him. But the preponderance of evidence in the USADA report
and pending legal challenges on several fronts apparently forced
him to change tactics after more a decade of denials.

He still faces legal problems.

Former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour
de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower
lawsuit that accused Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal
Service. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether it will
join the suit as a plaintiff.

The London-based Sunday Times also is suing Armstrong to recover
about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel lawsuit. On Sunday,
the newspaper took out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune,
offering Winfrey suggestions for what questions to ask Armstrong.
Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a
promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring
yet another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million an
arbitration panel awarded the cyclist in that dispute.

The lawsuit most likely to be influenced by a confession might
be the Sunday Times case. Potential perjury charges stemming from
Armstrong's sworn testimony in the 2005 arbitration fight would not
apply because of the statute of limitations. Armstrong was not
deposed during the federal investigation that was closed last year.

Many of his sponsors dropped Armstrong after the damning USADA
report - at the cost of tens of millions of dollars - and soon
after, he left the board of Livestrong, which he founded in 1997.
Armstrong is still said to be worth about $100 million.

Livestrong might be one reason Armstrong has decided to come
forward with an apology and limited confession. The charity
supports cancer patients and still faces an image problem because
of its association with Armstrong. He also may be hoping a
confession would allow him to return to competition in the elite
triathlon or running events he participated in after his cycling
career.

World Anti-Doping Code rules state his lifetime ban cannot be
reduced to less than eight years. WADA and U.S. Anti-Doping
officials could agree to reduce the ban further depending on what
information Armstrong provides and his level of cooperation.