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Oprah confirms Armstrong 'comes clean'

22:15 Wed Jan 16 2013
AAP

Lance Armstrong has "come clean" but the doping scourge in cycling continue to put immense pressure on the sport's world governing body.

Oprah Winfrey has confirmed speculation that the disgraced cyclist and high-profile cancer survivor confessed to doping when he gave the talk show host an interview that lasted more than two hours.

The much-anticipated interview was originally going to be shown as an edited 90-minute program on Friday afternoon (AEDT).

But such is the worldwide interest and the content of their discussion, it will now go to air in full over Friday and Saturday afternoons (AEDT).

International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound, a long-time critic of the sport's doping history, has raised the prospect of cycling being thrown out of the Games.

He said if the Armstrong admissions implicate the UCI, cycling's top body, Olympic banishment might be the only way to properly reform the sport.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) - the body which laid bare Armstrong's cheating - have also distanced themselves from a UCI independent commission designed to restore confidence in the sport.

Winfrey interviewed Armstrong on Tuesday (AEDT), his first media appearance since the wide-ranging, 1000-page USADA report last October that said he was at the centre of the biggest doping scandal in sports history.

Armstrong was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned from all WADA-sanctioned sports for life.

Within hours of the interview, there was speculation that Armstrong had confessed.

While not discussing any details of the interview, Winfrey confirmed to CBS that he had made an admission.

"I would say he did not come clean in the manner that I expected," she said. "It was surprising to me. I would say that for myself, my team, all of us in the room, we were mesmerised and riveted by some of his answers."

"I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious ... I would say that he met the moment.

"I didn't get all the questions asked, but I think the most important questions and the answers that people around the world have been waiting to hear were answered," Winfrey said.

"I can only say I was satisfied by the answers."

But anti-doping officials have called on Armstrong to admit his guilt under oath before considering whether they reduce his lifetime ban.

There is widespread suspicion among Armstrong's many critics about why it has taken so long to talk publicly after the USADA report.

A confession has potentially massive legal implications for Armstrong - criminal and civil.

There is speculation that Armstrong is desperate for the lifetime ban to be lifted so he can compete in sanctioned triathlons and marathons.

Reports have also said Armstrong is willing to testify against senior cycling officials.

Pound, a former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has told Reuters that the IOC may have little choice if Armstrong demonstrates the International Cycling Union (UCI) acted improperly.

"We could say, 'look, you've clearly got a problem why don't we give you four years, eight years to sort it out," Pound said.

"The only way it (cycling) is going to clean up is if all these people say 'hey, we're no longer in the Olympics and that's where we want to be so let's earn our way back into it,'.

"The IOC would have to deal with it, the (UCI) is not known for its strong actions to anti-doping."

WADA has also announced it will not take part in the independent probe, which will look at the UCI's handling of doping, due to "serious concerns" about the inquiry.

WADA president John Fahey made the announcement just as USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the UCI's refusal to allow limited amnesty for witnesses who testify before the commission "calls into question" the union's commitment to a thorough investigation.

The UCI commissioned Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates to recommend the three members of the inquiry panel.

Meanwhile, reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins had mixed feelings about Armstrong's admission.

"It will be a great day for a lot of people and quite a sad day for the sport in some ways," the British star told Sky News.

"But I think it has been a sad couple of months (for cycling). The '90s are pretty much a write-off now."