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Lance Armstrong admits doping to Oprah Winfrey

By Tim Walker in Los Angeles

Oprah Winfrey has confirmed that Lance Armstrong admitted to doping in an interview with her, but said the disgraced cyclist "did not come clean in the manner I expected".

The seven-time Tour de France winner was stripped of his titles last year after a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) accused him of leading "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme" the sport had ever seen. He previously denied the rumours vehemently, attacking other riders who criticised him, and even waging legal battles against some accusers.

The interview with Winfrey, conducted on Monday at a hotel near Armstrong's home in Austin, is the first time he has broken his silence since the damning report was published. Winfrey was vague about the detail of his answers, but told CBS that she had been "mesmerised and riveted" by the Texan's confession.

Armstrong is also reported to have told her that he is ready to testify against several people in the cycling world who helped to cover up his doping.

Armstrong sent a text to the Associated Press over the weekend, saying, "I told her [Winfrey] to go wherever she wants and I'll answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly." Asked whether she felt the athlete had been contrite, Winfrey replied: "I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I felt that he was thoughtful, I thought that he was serious, I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment. I would say that he met the moment. At the end of it... we were both pretty exhausted."

Last night, the International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound warned that cycling could be dropped as an Olympic sport if Armstrong implicated the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union (ICU), in a cover-up of widespread doping during his interview. Mr Pound told Reuters that Olympic officials would be left with no choice other than to take drastic action if Armstrong could prove the ICU had acted improperly.

The interview will be broadcast over two nights on Winfrey's OWN channel, beginning on Friday at 2am GMT. Before the taping, Armstrong visited the Austin headquarters of his cancer foundation, Livestrong, where he made an emotional apology to around 100 staff. Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane said: "It was a very sincere and heartfelt expression of regret."

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