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Lance Armstrong speaking at a Livestrong event.
Lance Armstrong speaking at a Livestrong event.
Lance Armstrong speaking at a Livestrong event.

Armstrong apologises to Livestrong staff ahead of doping TV interview

The disgraced cyclist made a personal apology to Livestrong staff just hours before recording his interview with Oprah WInfrey to discuss the allegations of doping which have ended his career.

Disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong apologised in person to staff of the Livestrong cancer charity ahead of recording his hotly-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey last night.

The former Olympian founded the charity in 1997 following his own battle with cancer, but was forced to step away from the organisation last year following the US Anti Doping Agency report which damned his career.

Speculation has surrounded the content of the interview, with reports suggesting he would use the televised opportunity to admit using performance enhancing drugs. The interview will air on US television and the internet on Thursday.

But ahead of the recording, Armstrong visited the charity and urged the staff there to "keep up their great work fighting for people affected by cancer". revealed spokeswoman Rae Bazzarre.

"Lance came to the Livestrong Foundation's headquarters today for a private conversation with our staff and offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they've endured because of him," she sad.

The interview, recorded at his home in Texas last night, is Armstrong's first since being stripped of his Tour de France titles in October, after the USADA report said he helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping programme in sports history.

With media staked out across the street from his home, Winfrey confirmed on Twitter that the exchange between the pair had lasted more than two and a half hours.

"He came READY!" she added.

For years he has repeatedly denied taking performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France and other big cycling events, but after the USADA report and the International Cycling Union's support of its findings, Armstrong has come under increasing criticism.

Yesterday Nicole Cooke, the first cyclist to win Olympic and world road race gold in the same year, took aim at Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton as she announced her retirement from cycling.

The 29-year-old cyclist said: "I have ridden through some of the darkest days of the sport in terms of corruption by the cheats and liars.

"I cannot change the era or time that I am born into. I am very proud that I have met the temptations head on and have not wavered in my honesty or sold my ideals.

"I have always ridden true to myself and placed my morals beyond a need to win. I have ridden clean throughout my career.

"When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward, just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.

"Tyler Hamilton will make more money from his book describing how he cheated than Lyne Bessette (one of Cooke's former teammates) or I will make in all our years of our honest labour.

"The situation requires the very basics of morality. Please don't reward people like Hamilton with money. There are many places infinitely more deserving than the filthy hands of Hamilton."

If Armstrong does confess to using performance enhancing drugs during the interview, he could face serious financial and legal ramifications, particularly among big-name corporate sponsors such as Nike that had loyally stood by him even as doping allegations grew.

Since the International Cycling Union effectively erased him from the record books, The Sunday Times newspaper in the UK has sued Armstrong for more than 1 million (Dh5.9m) over a libel payment made to him in 2006, while a Texas insurance company has also threatened legal action to recoup millions of dollars in bonuses it paid him for multiple Tour victories.

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