Millar leery of ‘stage-managed’ Armstrong interview with Winfrey

David Millar questions the picture to be painted in what he expects to be a managed interview with Lance Armstrong

LONDON (AFP) — British cyclist David Millar has expressed concern over what he believes will be Lance Armstrong’s “stage-managed” appearance in an interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Next week’s broadcast will be Armstrong’s first interview since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said he helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in cycling history.

A spokeswoman for Winfrey insisted Wednesday no question would be off limits and Armstrong would not be paid for a 90-minute interview that is due to air on January 17.

However, Millar, now a member of the athletes’ commission for the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Armstrong needs to be questioned by an official body.

“Only Lance would get to have his moment of truth, if that’s what it will be, in front of Oprah Winfrey,” said Millar.

“It is not sitting in front of a judge or a disciplinary hearing being properly questioned about the things he has done wrong. I doubt very much it will be a proper interrogation,” added Millar, who himself served a two-year ban after admitting doping in 2004 and then became a vocal campaigner against drugs in sport.

“My biggest concern is that it will be completely stage-managed, that he will just be ‘given the ball,’ and that it will all be about his emotions rather than concentrating on exactly what he did wrong,” said Millar.

However, Nicole Nichols of Winfrey’s OWN cable network told AFP in Washington via an e-mail: “Armstrong has no editorial control and no question is off-limits.” She added the rider is getting no payment for the interview.

Nichols also said the 90-minute interview at Armstrong’s home in Austin, Texas, “is not live.”

Asked when it would be recorded, she replied: “We are not confirming any further details. Thanks.”

Last week, The New York Times reported that Armstrong, 41, was considering publicly admitting that he used banned performance enhancing drugs in an apparent bid to return to competitive sport in marathons and triathlons.