UPDATED: There is speculation that Armstrong is weighing a public confession as part of an image rehabilitation strategy.
Oprah Winfrey has landed an exclusive interview with Lance Armstrong.
It will be the first interview the disgraced cyclist has done since he was stripped of seven Tour de France titles over doping allegations.
In the 90-minute interview, which will take place at Armstrong’s Austin, Texas, home and air Jan. 17 at 9 p.m., 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.
It is another coup for Winfrey, who has landed a succession of high-profile interviews for her still-fledgling OWN network. Her sitdown with pop singer Rihanna, who talked about her sometimes abusive relationship with Chris Brown, was watched by 2.5 million viewers on Oprah’s Next Chapter. And her March exclusive with Bobbi Kristina, the daughter of the late Whitney Houston, pulled in 3.5 million viewers and is still the most-watched telecast for the network.
Armstrong has been an elusive target for news organizations throughout the years-long investigation into doping on Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service cycling team. He has denied claims by former teammates that have detailed his alleged doping scheme including public and strenuous denials surrounding details in a May 2011 report by 60 Minutes. He has been banned for life from cycling and cannot compete in events sanctioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency including triathlons.
He has so far refused to appear on camera for any of the myriad TV news stories that have detailed cheating and an alleged pattern of sometimes ruinous legal action against his accusers. But now Armstrong is said to be weighing admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs as part of a long-term strategy to rehabilitate his athletic career. Disclosures could come with some legal jeopardy since Armstrong has denied blood-doping or using banned substances in some legal proceedings. And representatives for Armstrong denied a Jan. 4 New York Times report that said Armstrong was in touch with the USADA. Armstrong attorney Tim Herman told the Associated Press: “When, and if, Lance has something to say, there won’t be any secret about it.”
Already there is speculation that Armstrong’s admission could come during his interview with Winfrey. Representatives for OWN would not say whether Winfrey has interviewed Armstrong yet.
Meanwhile 60 Minutes Sports, the Showtime spinoff of the CBS News program, will air a report Wednesday that says a representative for Armstrong in 2004 attempted to donate $250,000 to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the same agency that last year found that Armstrong and his team had used illegal substances. Armstrong has refused repeated requests for an interview from 60 Minutes.