In a breaking story that will surprise very few, sources close to Lance Armstrong confirm that he used his exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey (taped yesterday) to admit that he took illegal, performance-enhancing substances throughout his cycling career–and that he plans to testify against officials who “encouraged” the practice.
Even as Armstrong confessed to what pretty much everyone suspected, he also seems to have hedged a bit, using the “everybody was doing it” defense to argue that he was not, in fact, a doping “ringleader”. Given his extremely aggressive PR efforts in denying all relevant accusations for years, we’re not quite sure anyone will buy that line–but he clearly made a strategic decision in the interest of saving what’s left of his multimillion dollar reputation. By testifying against others involved in the scandal, he hopes to overcome his lifelong ban from competitive sports so he can continue to compete in “triathalons and running events” while raising money for his charity.
This is obviously a big story, and some within the industry see it as a major PR win for Oprah, whose influence has been slipping of late as her OWN Network struggles to gain viewers and seeks media attention via moves like a partnership with The Huffington Post. Oprah clearly aims to make the most of the interview–she’s splitting it into two parts, and directly after its conclusion she tweeted:
Just wrapped with @lancearmstrongMore than 2 1/2 hours . He came READY!
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 14, 2013