Charity expects Armstrong to be 'truthful' in TV interview

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong said on Wednesday it expects the disgraced cyclist to be "completely truthful and forthcoming" in his upcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The Livestrong Foundation issued a statement on the eve of the broadcast of Armstrong's much-anticipated pre-recorded interview - his first since he was stripped of his Tour de France titles amid irrefutable doping allegations.

"We expect Lance to be completely truthful and forthcoming in his interview and with all of us in the cancer community," said the statement, posted in the blog section of Livestrong's website (www.livestrong.org).

"We expect we will have more to say at that time. Regardless, we are charting a strong, independent course forward that is focused on helping people overcome financial, emotional and physical challenges related to cancer."

It added: "Inspired by the people with cancer whom we serve, we feel confident and optimistic about the Foundation's future and welcome an end to speculation."

Highly respected for its work with cancer patients and its promotion of better health and fitness, Livestrong took a hit when the US Anti-Doping Agency put Armstrong at the heart of the biggest doping scandal in sports history.

In the wake of numerous leaks to news media, Winfrey confirmed on Tuesday to CBS This Morning that Armstrong, after a decade of denials, came clean to her on his use of performance enhancing drugs.

The interview, originally scheduled to air Thursday on Winfrey's OWN cable network, will now run in two parts, on Thursday and Friday at 9pm, to take in its entire uncut two-and-half-hour span.

It will also be streamed worldwide on the Oprah.com website.

Prior to Monday's taping of the interview in Austin, Texas, Armstrong - a cancer survivor who last year distanced himself from Livestrong as the doping allegations grew - visited the charity to speak with its staff in person.

"He expressed his regret for the stress the team suffered in recent years as a result of the controversy surrounding his cycling career," the Livestrong statement Wednesday said.

"He asked that they stay focused on serving people affected by cancer, something our team has always done excellently and will continue to do."

Armstrong, 41, is reportedly hoping that a public confession could open the door to a return to competitive sport in marathons and triathlons after he was stripped of his record seven Tour de France laurels.

But David Howman, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, said on Tuesday only a full confession under oath to anti-doping authorities could prompt a rethink of his lifetime ban from competition.

WADA's former chief Dick Pound, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), similarly told AFP that Armstrong should face a proper grilling, naming names and revealing details about how he cheated.

"Simply by confessing to what everybody knows is not going to do anything here," Pound said.

Last year, the US Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong ran the most sophisticated doping programme in sports history, publishing reams of damning eyewitness testimony from former team-mates about the extent of his cheating.

The scandal plunged cycling into crisis, raising questions about how he managed to avoid detection for so long, amid claims the International Cycling Union (UCI) turned a blind eye to widespread doping in the peloton.

On Wednesday, an independent panel set up by the UCI to look into cover-up claims urged the governing body to reconsider offering an amnesty to riders who admit to having taken performance enhancing drugs.

UCI responded by saying that granting amnesty would run against WADA's very own anti-doping laws and do little if anything to sway the IOC or deter criminal prosecutions or lawsuits from sponsors.