Oprah Winfrey confirms that Lance Armstrong admitted to doping during their "emotional" interview that will air on her OWN channel starting Thursday.

Lance Armstrong during interview with Oprah Winfrey (CBS)

During an appearance on CBS This Morning to promote the interview, WInfrey said Armstrong was "forthcoming" as she asked him in detail about doping allegations that followed him throughout his seven Tour de France victories.

She described the interview as "certainly the biggest interview I've ever done in terms of its exposure," and compared it to her 1993 live interview with Michael Jackson.

Winfrey says the interview, which took place at a downtown Austin, Texas hotel, will air over two nights starting Thursday night.

Word of the confession leaked out on Monday night; Winfrey said she planned to keep that part of the interview under wraps but "by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it," she told CBS This Morning host and best friend Gayle King.

Winfrey went on to explain that while Armstrong "did not come clean in the manner that I expected" and that it was "surprising to me ... my team, all of us in the room ... I feel that he answered the questions in a way that he was ready."

An "Exhausting" Meeting

Winfrey tweeted shortly after the interview session on Monday that her sit-down with Armstrong lasted 2 1/2 hours. She described the interview as "exhausting" and described the cyclist's responses as "forthcoming."

Oprah WInfrey tweet about Lance Armstrong interview
Oprah WInfrey tweet about Lance Armstrong interview (Twitter)

She said the interview came about after she sent him an email over the holidays suggesting Hawaii since they were both there already. They set up a secret meeting paving the way for the OWN interview.

She is not sure why he chose this moment to admit drug use. "I think he was just, ready. I think the velocity of everything that's come at him in the past several months and the past several weeks, he was just ready," she said.

USA Today reports that Armstrong admitted he started doping in the mid-1990's before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Years Of Denial Catch Up


Oprah Winfrey discusses Lance Armstrong interview on CBS This Morning (CBS)

For years, Armstrong went after his critics ruthlessly during his reign as cycling champion. He scolded some in public and didn't hesitate to punish outspoken riders during the race itself. He waged legal battles against still others in court.

At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel case, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million awarded by an arbitration panel.

In Australia, the government of South Australia state said Tuesday it will seek the repayment of several million dollars in appearance fees paid to Armstrong for competing in the Tour Down Under in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

"We'd be more than happy for Mr. Armstrong to make any repayment of monies to us," South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said.

Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, was one of the first to publicly accuse Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. She called news of Armstrong's confession "very emotional and very sad," and choked up when asked to comment.

Defrauding The U.S. Government?

Former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for doping, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that accused Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service. An attorney familiar with Armstrong's legal problems told the AP that the Justice Department is highly likely to join the lawsuit. The False Claims Act lawsuit could result in Armstrong paying a substantial amount of money to the U.S. government. The deadline for the department to join the case is Thursday, though the department could seek an extension if necessary.

According to the attorney, who works outside the government, the lawsuit alleges that Armstrong defrauded the U.S. government based on his years of denying use of performance-enhancing drugs. The attorney spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the matter.


The Associated Press contributed to this story