By Ed Payne, (CNN) — The court of public opinion weighed in decidedly against Lance Armstrong ahead of the broadcast of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, who confirmed media reports Tuesday that the cyclist acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denials.
After CBS and other media outlets reported that Armstrong admitted using banned substances, Winfrey said her team and Armstrong’s camp had originally agreed not to leak details of the interview. She said she decided to appear on “CBS This Morning” because Armstrong’s acknowledgment had “already been confirmed.”
Winfrey, appearing on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday, did not describe Armstrong’s statements in detail but said the former cyclist was forthcoming in what she said was an exhausting and intense interview taped in Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, Texas.
“We were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers,” she said, adding that “he did not come clean in the manner that I expected.” She didn’t elaborate.
On CNN’s Facebook page, the opinions were passionate and pointed.
“This guy is a loser and a liar!!” Melinda Morgan said. “He is not sorry for what he did, he is sorry that he got caught!!”
Margaret Midkiff said there’s no hope of Armstrong reviving his career. “He’s lied to folks way too long.”
For more than a decade, Armstrong has denied he used performance-enhancing drugs, but he was linked to a doping scandal by nearly a dozen other former cyclists who have admitted to doping.
Some media outlets have reported that Armstrong has been strongly considering the possibility of a confession, possibly as a way to stem the tide of fleeing sponsors and as part of a long-term comeback plan.
But Gretta Michellé said it’s too late for redemption.
“He had the opportunity to be honest from the beginning and he should have,” she posted on the Facebook page. “Winning was more important.”
Armstrong’s admission is a sharp about-face after more than a decade of vehemently denying he cheated en route to winning a record seven Tour de France titles. Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, stripped the titles from Armstrong following a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that found widespread evidence of Armstrong’s involvement in a sophisticated doping program.
The interview will air over two nights, beginning at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Winfrey has promised a “no-holds-barred” interview, with no conditions and no payment made to Armstrong.
“I hope the ratings are (a) record low on that show,” Matthew Black said in a Facebook comment.
Winfrey declined to characterize Armstrong’s statements, saying she preferred that viewers make up their own minds. She said the interview was at times emotional and surprisingly intense.
“I would say that he met the moment,” she said.
Word that Armstrong may have allowed some emotion to show through didn’t seem to soften many critics.
“Go ahead and cry, Lance … it won’t help you one bit,” Lori Polacek said. You “blew it a long time ago!”
Cancer charity: The trump card?
Some were willing to cut Armstrong a break because of his long-running cancer charity: the Livestrong Foundation.
“Who cares?” said Pedro Murillo. “He raised so much for cancer research, that’s more important (than) if he doped for some races.”
David Flowe said he doesn’t care if Armstrong was involved in doping or if he even confesses to it.
“The man is an inspiration for those battling cancer,” he said. “Quit being so judgmental of others especially someone who has done so much good for the world!”
Armstrong, 41, has been an icon for his cycling feats and celebrity, bringing more status to a sport wildly popular in some nations but lacking big-name recognition, big money and mass appeal in the United States.
He fought back from testicular cancer to win the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005. He raised millions via his Lance Armstrong Foundation to help cancer victims and survivors, an effort illustrated by trendy yellow “LiveSTRONG” wristbands that helped bring in the money.
Before the interview with Winfrey, the disgraced cycling legend apologized to the staff of his cancer charity, a publicist for Livestrong Foundation said.
Armstrong was tearful during the 15-minute meeting and didn’t address the issue of steroid use in cycling, said Rae Bazzarre, director of communications for the foundation.
Bazzarre added that Armstrong offered to the staff a “sincere and heartfelt apology for the stress they’ve endured because of him.”
He urged them to keep working hard to help cancer survivors and their families.
Banned for life
The USADA hit Armstrong with a lifetime ban after the agency issued a 202-page report in October that said there was overwhelming evidence he was directly involved in a sophisticated doping program.
The report detailed Armstrong’s alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions. The USADA said it had tested Armstrong fewer than 60 times and the International Cycling Union conducted about 215 tests.
“Show one failed test, just one,” Ron Berg said, challenging the wave of public opinion against Armstrong. “You can’t, because he passed them all. … They hate him for his success and tried to fail him, they could not.”
The agency did not say that Armstrong ever failed a test, but his former teammates testified as to how they beat tests or avoided them altogether.
Where to watch the Oprah interview of Lance Armstrong:
You can watch the interview on the OWN network channel (find your specific channel using “The OWN Channel Finder” on Oprah.com) or watch it live on Oprah.com 9/8c Thursday and Friday.
CNN’s Steve Almasy and Michael Pearson contributed to this report.
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