Armstrong tries to recast damaged career

AUSTIN, Texas — After more than a decade of adamant denials of accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs and techniques, an emotional and contrite Lance Armstrong on Monday began to recast his now-crushed international cycling career.

While a half-dozen media satellite trucks were parked in front of his expansive Austin home, Armstrong apologized to employees of his former foundation at the Livestrong headquarters across town and then spent nearly three hours being interviewed by talk show maven Oprah Winfrey at a downtown luxury hotel.

The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed source, reported that Armstrong confessed to doping during his interview with Winfrey.

Armstrong has not answered text messages sent to him by the American-Statesman. He left town Monday night.

“He came ready,” Winfrey posted to her Twitter account.

Winfrey will give interviews this week based on her long talk with Armstrong, but it won’t be aired until Thursday night, in a 90-minute broadcast on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

CBS News, also quoting an unnamed source, said Armstrong is in talks to repay the federal government to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by Floyd Landis. The network also reported that Armstrong might agree to testify against others involved in doping. Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s longtime team director, still is fighting doping charges through arbitration.

Tim Herman, Armstrong’s Austin-based lawyer, told the American-Statesman that he knew nothing about the CBS report.

Before he met with Winfrey, Armstrong offered an apology, but few details, to about 100 Livestrong employees during a 15-meeting meeting at foundation headquarters in East Austin. Armstrong helped launch the foundation in 1997, months after he finished chemotherapy treatment for advanced testicular cancer. He gave up his foundation chairmanship in November, weeks after he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life.

Rae Bazzarre, a Livestrong spokeswoman, said, “Lance came to the Livestrong Foundation’s headquarters today for a private conversation with our staff and offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they’ve endured because of him, and urged them to keep up their great work fighting for people affected by cancer.” Chris Brewer, Livestrong’s strategic partnership manager, said the foundation’s staff “embraced” Armstrong.

“He did say that he has been very used to being in charge and getting his own way in most things in life, and realizes he has some things he needs to apologize for,” Brewer said. “The real reason he came to the staff was to say he was sorry. The way I took it was more that he was apologizing for what we’ve been through in the last few years and how that’s reflected on the foundation. You could tell he was very emotional about it.”

It’s unclear how much Armstrong told Winfrey, who beat out the news program “60 Minutes” for the disgraced cyclist’s first official interview since most of his career results were wiped away by the International Cycling Union. The UCI followed the recommendations of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which in October released a 1,000-page report with testimony from 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates describing the cyclist’s doping program dating back to 1998.

Armstrong still is facing a lawsuit brought by the Times of London, which is seeking to recover a $1.5 million libel settlement it agreed to pay Armstrong eight years ago. A sportswriter for the Times took out an ad in the Chicago Tribune on Monday to suggest 10 questions Winfrey should ask Armstrong.

Landis, a former teammate who first opened the door to expose Armstrong’s doping program in 2010, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit. Both Armstrong and Landis rode for U.S. Postal, which invested $30 million to be the title sponsor for Armstrong’s team from 1999 to 2004. Landis charged that Armstrong used federal money to buy and dispense performance-enhancing drugs.

After Armstrong finished his apology rounds, he flew to his home in Hawaii to rejoin his family. TV news crews still were parked outside his house. No one on his team will speak publicly until Winfrey’s interview airs Thursday night.