On his way to a tell-all taping with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong officially told employees at his cancer foundation that "I'm sorry" — the latest stop in a series of private mea culpas in the run-up to the Oprah interview's Thursday airing that suggest he may really be telling all. (Update: The Associated Press reported on Monday evening that Armstrong did indeed confess to doping in his Oprah interview, and CBS News has confirmed that Armstrong "has indicated a willingness to testify against others." Winfrey is expected to offer a preview of the two-and-a-half-hour interview Tuesday on CBS This Morning.)
According to an AP source, Armstrong admitted to the Livestrong staff — without making a straight-up confession about doping — that the foundation's reputation had been ruined and that his apology would be a step toward saving it. While the AP report doesn't go much further, the meeting was confirmed by a Livestrong spokesperson, and the tone seems to be serious, without too much hedging this time:
Armstrong addressed the staff Monday and said, "I'm sorry." The person said the disgraced cyclist choked up and several employees cried during the session.
The person also said Armstrong apologized for letting the staff down and putting Livestrong at risk but he did not make a direct confession to the group about using banned drugs. He said he would try to restore the foundation's reputation.
We still don't know how far or how deep Oprah will go in her highly-anticipated interview — taped Monday afternoon and airing on the OWN network Thursday in primetime — we can only, for now, gauge how much Armstrong is willing to admit by the dribs and drabs about apologies he's giving in private. On Sunday, The Washington Post's Liz Clark reported that Armstrong had already begun making telephone calls to "key people in the cycling community with whom he had not been truthful about his part in sports doping."
Armstrong, of course, has spent more than a decade spiritedly denying any use of steroids, performance-enhancing drugs, and blood doping procedures. "On the other hand, any confession carries considerable risk, given the lawsuits that are pending and those currently being weighed against him," wrote Clark. A lawsuit that could cost Armstrong tens of millions of dollars.
Already Armstrong's critics are coming out as if the full truth will, and after a long month in October in which he got wrapped up in more legal trouble and lost his Nike sponsorship, Armstrong quit his foundation. It has been a slow reveal — Armstrong was banned from cycling in August after a judge threw out one case, and even the rumors of coming clean began almost two weeks ago — but if the tears at the Livestrong office are any indication, Thursday might really be the full-on, old-school Oprah confessions we got used to around the time Lance Armstrong was still on top of the world.