Armstrong to address doping scandal on Oprah next week

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong will talk about the doping scandal that dramatically brought down his cycling career during an interview with Oprah Winfrey next week, it was announced on Tuesday.

The famed talk show host said a 90-minute special show would address "years of accusations of cheating, and charges of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs" throughout Armstrong's "storied cycling career".

The interview will be Armstrong's first since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year and will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network. It will also be streamed live on her website, a publicity statement said.

Last week, The New York Times reported that Armstrong, 41, was considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance-enhancing drugs, in an apparent bid to return to competitive sport in marathons and triathlons.

"Looking forward to this conversation with @lancearmstrong," Winfrey posted on her Twitter site Tuesday. Armstrong re-tweeted the comment 15 minutes later.

In the interview, Winfrey will speak with Armstrong at his home in Austin, Texas.

The announcement came on the same day that 60 Minutes said US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief executive Travis Tygart told them in an interview to be aired on Wednesday that Armstrong attempted to donate around US$250,000 (S$307,000) to the agency.

Mr Tygart said he was bowled over by the "totally inappropriate" donation offer from one of Armstrong's representatives in 2004, which he immediately refused.

"I was stunned," Mr Tygart said in the interview. "It was a clear conflict of interest for Usada. We had no hesitation in rejecting that offer."

Asked if the offer was in the range of US$250,000, Mr Tygart said: "It was in that ballpark."

Mr Tygart, who described Armstrong's heavy-handed tactics as being similar to the "mafia", denounced a US$100,000 donation Armstrong made previously to the International Cycling Union (UCI).

However, Armstrong's lawyer, Mr Tim Herman, told USA Today on Tuesday that there was never a donation attempt from the cyclist.

"No truth to that story," Mr Herman told the newspaper. "First Lance heard of it was today. He never made any such contribution or suggestion."

Usada stripped Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and slapped him with a lifetime ban in October after releasing a damning report that said he helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping programme in the history of the sport.

The UCI effectively erased Armstrong from the cycling history books when it decided not to appeal sanctions imposed on Armstrong by Usada.

The massive report by Usada included hundreds of pages of eyewitness testimony, e-mails, financial records and laboratory analysis of blood samples.

US federal officials investigated Armstrong and his cycling team for two years but failed to charge him.

Late last year, cancer survivor Armstrong resigned as chairman of the Livestrong foundation he created.

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