After a decade of denial, Lance Armstrong has finally come clean: He used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.
The disgraced cyclist made the confession to Oprah Winfrey during an interview taped Monday, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the interview is to be broadcast Thursday on Winfrey’s network.
The admission Monday came hours after an emotional apology by Armstrong to the Livestrong charity that he founded and took global on the strength of his celebrity as a cancer survivor who came back to win one of sport’s most grueling events.
The confession was a stunning reversal, after years of public statements, interviews, and court battles in which he denied doping and zealously protected his reputation.
Winfrey tweeted afterward, ‘‘Just wrapped with (at)lancearmstrong More than 2½ hours. He came READY!’’ She was scheduled to appear on ‘‘CBS This Morning’’ on Tuesday to discuss the interview.
Even before the taping session with Winfrey began around 2 p.m., Armstrong’s apology suggested he would carry through on promises over the weekend to answer her questions ‘‘directly, honestly, and candidly.’’
The cyclist was stripped of his Tour de France titles, lost most of his endorsements, and was forced to leave the foundation last year after the US Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme.
About 100 staff members of the charity Armstrong founded in 1997 gathered in a conference room as Armstrong arrived with a simple message: ‘‘I’m sorry.’’
He choked up during a 20-minute talk, expressing regret for the long-running controversy over performance-enhancers had caused, but stopped short of admitting he used them.
‘‘Heartfelt and sincere,’’ is how Livestrong spokesman Katherine McLane described his speech.
Armstrong later huddled with almost a dozen people before stepping into a room set up at a downtown Austin, Texas, hotel.
The group included close friends and advisers, two of his lawyers, and Bill Stapleton, his agent, manager, and business partner. They exchanged handshakes and smiles, but declined comment when approached by a reporter. Most members of that group left the hotel through the front entrance around 5 p.m., although Armstrong was not with them.
No further details about the interview were available immediately because of confidentiality agreements signed by both camps. But Winfrey promoted it as a ‘‘no-holds barred’’ session, and after the voluminous USADA report — which included testimony from 11 former teammates — she had plenty of material for questions. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, a longtime critic of Armstrong’s, called the drug regimen practiced while Armstrong led the US Postal Service team, ‘‘The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’’
Armstrong also went after his critics ruthlessly during his reign as cycling champion, scolding some in public and waging legal battles against others in court.
Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. She called news of Armstrong’s confession ‘‘very emotional and very sad,’’ and got choked up when asked to comment.
‘‘He used to be one of my husband’s best friends and because he wouldn’t go along with the doping, he got kicked to the side,’’ she said.
“Lance could have a positive impact if he tells the truth on everything. He’s got to be completely honest.”
In addition, 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 US Postal Service. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether it will join the suit as a plaintiff.
The lawsuit most likely to be influenced by a confession might be the case Armstrong brought against Britain’s Sunday Times. 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.
Armstrong is said to be worth around $100 million. But most sponsors dropped him after USADA’s scathing report — at the cost of tens of millions of dollars — and soon after, he left the board of Livestrong.
After the USADA findings, he was also barred from competing 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.