Return to Transcripts main page


Armstrong Admits Doping; Protesters Fill Islamabad Streets; Violence Continues in Mali; Deaths in Syria from Rebel, Government Attacks; Battle Lines Drawn over Biden's Gun Proposals

Aired January 15, 2013 - 12:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

Oprah Winfrey says disgraced cycling superstar Lance Armstrong admits it. He lied for more than a decade about doping. Oprah says she was mesmerized by some of the answers that Armstrong gave about the cheating that won him seven Tour de France titles. He is now stripped of those titles.

Well, they sat down for a two and a half hour interview yesterday in Austin, Texas. Oprah, she brought 112 questions to ask him and she says it's the biggest interview of her career. She says, however, it was not easy.

Here's what she told CBS this morning.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH'S NEXT CHAPTER": Yes, I think the entire interview was -- was difficult. And may I just say that we had agreed before this moment, before the interview, we had agreed that the terms of the interview and what was included in the interview, specifically what was included in the interview, would -- would be left for people to make their own judgments about and that I would not be discussing or he would not be discussing or confirming.

We agreed to that. And then by the time I left Austin and landed in Chicago, you all had already confirmed it. So I'm like, how did you all do that? We all agreed that we weren't going to say anything. So I'm sitting here now because it's already been confirmed.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in Dave Zirin. He is the sports editor for "The Nation" magazine. He's also author of the new book "Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down."

Dave, first of all, I mean, not a big shock in terms of all of the rumors that have circulated for years and years. The shock, however, is that he finally came clean. What does this mean for the sport of cycling? DAVE ZIRIN, EDGEOFSPORTS.COM: Well, what it means for cycling is they need to get started right now on a massive reformation process of their sport itself, because make no mistake about it, Lance Armstrong is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to performance enhancing drugs and cheating in the world of cycling.

You know, Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles. The reason why, now that those titles have been stripped, they haven't been given to the second place finishers, is that every single second place finisher in those seven victories has also been found to be implicated in performance enhancing drugs. I mean the sport makes -- it is unbelievable. It makes Major League Baseball look clean in comparison. It makes Las Vegas look like Salt Lake City. It's just -- it's the sort of thing that they need to actually now get started and prove that this wasn't just about chasing Lance Armstrong, the big white whale, this wasn't just about going after him, which Lance Armstrong and his defenders have often said, this is actually about cleaning up the sport.

MALVEAUX: Dave, how on earth -- how do they even start that process when you talk about this? I mean this is a sport that doesn't seem to have all that much legitimacy when you look at the top level cyclists around the globe now.

ZIRIN: Yes. I mean it's very difficult to get started in terms of cleaning up the sport. The first reason is that the sport itself is so very dangerous. I mean if you had the same number of deaths in the National Football League that you've had in competitive cycling over the last 20 years, there would be congressional investigations on a monthly basis. It's incredibly physically demanding. What they're asked to do, particularly in the Tour de France in terms of biking up the face of the Pyrenees at 35, 40 miles an hour, it's so intense that many cyclists, who I've spoken to off the record, will say, look, the drugs we're taking are -- we call them survival drugs. We're trying to increase the oxygenation of our blood so we can actually do it. So how do you have cycling that's safe, that still has fan interest, and that bikes actually feel like they can compete in without putting themselves at risk? That's the Gordian knot that cycling faces right now.

MALVEAUX: And let's talk about Lance's own career here. I mean you've said before, and I think a lot of people agree, that he did the interview because he wants the U.S. Anti Doping Agency to lift this lifetime ban on him so he can go ahead -- ahead in his future, perhaps compete in triathlons, there are some other events, things like that. Is this something that you think will actually work?

ZIRIN: It's a great question. What he is attempting to do is the public relations equivalent of cycling through the eye of a needle, because not only does he have to show the United States Anti Doping Agency, an organization that he has criticized and cursed for years, that they were right, he was wrong, he is repentant, he is -- he's contrite, but he also has to not reveal too much, because if he does, there is going to be a conga line of lawyers outside his door ready to sue him for every last penny of his $100 million fortune for all the time that he counter-sued, that he won libel suits against newspapers, like "The Sunday Times of London" --


ZIRIN: Or other entities as well. There's the Justice Department that wants to claim $30 million from him perhaps --


ZIRIN: Because of the U.S. Postal Service endorsement. So he is attempting to do something very difficult with his interview and that's honestly what I'm going to be looking to watch. Not so much did he admit it, but how much does he reveal.

MALVEAUX: And, Dave, you've got to wonder, why now? Why did he actually come clean with Oprah? Even Oprah admits this morning that she didn't really get a clear answer on this. Listen to what she said.


WINFREY: I asked that question and I'm not sure I still have the answer to that question, why he wanted to do it now. I specifically asked that question. I think he was just -- he was just ready. I think the velocity of everything that's come at him in the past several months, and particularly the past several weeks, he was just ready.


MALVEAUX: Dave, is there any vantage for him in coming clean now?

ZIRIN: Yes. Well, I don't know about now, the timing of now, but I have two theories based on people I've spoken to who are around Lance Armstrong for why now that make a lot of sense. I mean the first is that the guy is just -- he's a competition junkie. And he actually has a passion for wanting to compete in these triathlon events. Sorry about the word junkie. Not the best for a drug story.

But he wants to compete in triathlon events. He has a lifetime ban against competing in triathlons because they're under the umbrella of USADA (ph). So he wants to figure out a way to get back in the game, so to speak. That's one reason.

The other reason is that he is very put off by the description in USADA's report, which is backed up by a ton of eyewitness that makes him sound like less like a run of the mill PED user --


ZIRIN: And more like the Tony Soprano of cycling. Somebody who's actually operating a ring of performance enhancing drug users. He takes great exception to that description and he needs to figure out a way to challenge it --


ZIRIN: While not upsetting USADA because they control his ability to get back in the game. So that's what I mean when I say, this is like cycling through the eye of a needle.

MALVEAUX: And, Dave, I have to say, I mean hearing this story, it is so disturbing. It is so profoundly disappointing, right, because you kind of want to think -- you want to root for the guy and think, well, maybe, maybe he was telling the truth, maybe there was some truth in what he was saying here, because he lied for so many years. Can people forgive him? Can his fans, the sports fans, the people who are behind him at Livestrong, think any differently of him? Can he possibly rehabilitate his image?

ZIRIN: I think that's going to be really hard for him to do for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that he's done with competitive cycling no matter what. He's 41 years old. That's done.

And one thing we've learned from the world of sports over the last 20 years, whether you're looking at people like Ray Lewis, Michael Vick or people like Roger Clemens at the end of his career, or Barry Bonds, it's when you choose to come forward says everything about how the public will forgive you. If you can go back onto the field and achieve and perform, then the playing field becomes like (INAUDIBLE), you dip yourself in, it forgives all sins. But if you do it at the end of your career, then you're just branded with this label of being a drug cheat and it's much more difficult, no matter how many good works you do, to then in turn be forgiven.

MALVEAUX: Yes, Dave, I don't know how he gets over this. It's going to be really hard. You know, there are so many people who believed in him. He was a cancer survivor. And, you know, the whole Livestrong, the whole movement that he had behind him in this country.

Dave, thanks for your perspective on this. We're going to have a lot more in the next hour on the disgrace, the fall of Lance Armstrong.

We're also following some international stories.

Pakistan's government is now under fire on two fronts. First, the supreme court ordered the arrest of the country's prime minister, number of other officials, over corruption allegations. Now, the second, you've got protesters, they have filled the streets of the capital in Islamabad. They are on the main boulevard leading up to the president's residence, the national assembly and the supreme court led by a Muslim cleric. Thousands of people are calling for Pakistan's leaders to be thrown out in favor of a caretaker government.

I want to bring in and get more from Saima Mohsin.

Saima, if you could, explain to us why the unrest in Pakistan right now? Why do they want the prime minister to step down?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, it seems that this is an embattled government right now. Seemingly out of nowhere, these protests erupted. The Muslim cleric from Canada returned to Pakistan calling for a million man march. And on the same day, the supreme court, which had been looking into allegations of kickbacks regarding (INAUDIBLE) power plant (INAUDIBLE) two years ago in 2011 now, has really asked -- ordered the government forces and the police to issue arrest warrants and investigate the case.

Now, at the time it was the ministry of water and power which was involved in this and the minister of water and power was the very man who is today Pakistan's prime minister. So an arrest warrant released for him this evening. Also he's been placed on the (INAUDIBLE). Not a great day at the office for Pakistan's democratic government.


MALVEAUX: All right, Saima, we're having a little difficulty hearing you because of the protests behind you. But can you describe, can you paint a picture of what you're seeing behind you, all of the shouting, what is taking place?

MOHSIN: Yes, Suzanne, sorry, I'm not sure if I heard your question right either. But let me just give you a sense of where we're at. We're overlooking the protests right now. Not the million man march, but certainly tens of thousands of people. My cameraman, (INAUDIBLE), is going to point down for you. So right down here is the main boulevard leading up to those government buildings you mentioned. And if we look on into the distance here, over my shoulder, those white lights are leading to the presidential house, to the national assembly. So they are only a few hundred meters away. They are literally on the doorsteps.

Those are women chanting. There are thousands of women here. Men, women, children, entire families who say they're here for their children's future. They're here for the future of Pakistan. What are they chanting for, Suzanne? They're calling for change. They're calling for electoral reform.

Now, while this might seem a good thing, it does have a lot of controversy behind it, Suzanne, because it's only three months ago until this could potentially be the first democratic government in Pakistan's entire history, believe it or not, that would make it through to a full term. So while this call for change perhaps seems timely, it's also controversial because it seems to be trying to pull down the government.


MALVEAUX: And, Saima, that's very significant, the fact that they are trying to pull down the government here. You have a real situation where you've got a lot of women in Pakistan. We saw the traditional garb that they have. Is there any sense, Saima, that this is going to be a peaceful demonstration? Could this turn into something that is a little bit more violent or chaotic? There is clearly a lot of emotion that is down there. Describe for us what that is like.

MOHSIN: Absolutely. They are very emotional. They are in if for the long haul, Suzanne. They brought their suitcases. They brought their blankets. They say they're here to stay. They've been here two nights already. It's extremely cold. But they're very resilient. And it shows their faith in this march and what they're calling for, of course.

Now, so far it's been incredibly well-organized. Throughout the day, we've had announcements calling for people to stay peaceful, to remain calm, to deliver their message in a peaceful and calm way. However, earlier this morning there were reports of police and (INAUDIBLE) claimed the police had come it try and arrest him and they fired aerial shots to disperse the crowd, when a lot of the women, in fact, from the protesters, surged forward to stop the police. Depending on which side of the fence you stand on, we're not sure who fired those shots or where they came from.

Also, Suzanne, very quickly, just want to say that Dahril Dabri (ph) came out just an hour or so ago and he told the protesters to bed down, to stay there, and not move until all assemblies in Pakistan's provinces are dissolved.

MALVEAUX: All right, Saima, you keep us posted. Let us know how this develops on the streets there. It is clearly a very important thing that is taking place. The fact that you have thousands of protesters, including women, who are out there on the streets in Pakistan demanding change in their own government. And this is, of course, a place that U.S. relations has strained relations with because of some of the ties to terrorists and to al Qaeda in that country. That is where Osama bin Laden, as you know, was captured and killed.

Here's more of what we're working on for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

The French military just launched an all out night attack on a tiny town in Mali. They are trying to knock out an Islamic extremist group with links to al Qaeda.

And a woman working at British Airways was told she could not wear her cross on the job. She sued, and she won.


MALVEAUX: The battle against Islamic extremists is becoming even more violent. This is in the West African nation of Mali. There is an international effort right now to keep rebels that are linked to al Qaeda out of the capital.

France is now taking the lead and French fighter jets and attack helicopters are now being used in air strikes on the rebels. This has been happening for several days now.

Now, the U.N. and West African nations are deciding whether or not to get involved even more. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have promised limited support.

I want to bring in Vladimir Duthiers. He is following developments from Lagos, Nigeria. First of all, Vlad, we've got the French military. We're watching them. You've got 750 of the troops out there. They are on the ground in Mali. We know that those troop numbers are actually going to increase.

Why is the French -- why are they so involved in what is taking place on the ground?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, for France, they see this as a threat to the very existence of Mali as we knew it before the Muslim extremists took it over in March 2012.

They see that if there was to be a Muslim extremist group taking over a country like Mali, establishing an Islamic foothold in West Africa, that could destabilize all of Africa and European interests.

There are 6,000 French residents living in Mali at the moment. France was waiting for a contingent of West African soldiers under the banner of the Economic Community of West African States to deploy a contingent of 3500 soldiers. That wasn't slated to happen until September.

Once the strategic town of Kona was attacked last week and Muslim extremists were making headways towards the capital of Bamako, France felt it had to take action, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Vlad, we know Mali was a former French colony, but there are international troops, there are people around the world who are now involved, trying to make sure that these extremists don't take over.

Give us a sense of what's at stake here. Because we have been talking for months about really the radical, radical changes that have been taking place as al Qaeda took over Timbuktu. You had all kinds of attacks taking place and they want to put in and install Sharia law. Explain to us what they're trying to do.

DUTHIERS: That's exactly right, Suzanne. The extremists have implemented their very strict interpretation of Sharia law. The U.N. says that since March of 2012 there have been public executions, there have been amputations, there have been stonings and floggings.

In fact, we have that video. We have video of a man whose hand is being amputated, another man who's being flogged, very disturbing images. This is what's happening on the ground in Northern Mali.

The U.N. says hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced since the start of hostilities.

The United States, for their part, says that they will battle al Qaeda wherever and whenever they are. Leon Panetta, defense secretary of the United States, speaking to reporters on a plane yesterday, said that they are prepared to help France and to offer any aid that they could in the form of intelligence gathering, in the form of reconnaissance and troop transportation. The U.K.'s already offered help.

We've also heard -- just today, I spoke to the army spokesman in Nigeria. He says that 190 Nigerian soldiers are going to be on the ground in Mali in 24 hours and we expect another 700 in the coming days ahead, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Vlad, thank you for the update. Please keep us posted on what is taking place. There's a lot that is at stake there in Mali. Thank you, Vlad.

For almost two years now, a civil war has been raging in Syria. Human rights groups, they have been tracking the bloodshed. We're going to talk to the head of one of those groups and find out what is really happening on the ground.


MALVEAUX: Both sides in Syria's civil war attacked today with deadly precision. Two explosions rocked the University of Aleppo, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens more. Rebels are blamed for the blast in an area that is controlled now by the government. State TV described it as a terrorist attack.

Well, meanwhile, another 15 people were killed in Hula Province. Those deaths were said to have been caused by government shelling. The bodies of the victims, including many children, were wrapped in cloth and collected for burial.

Rebels say at least 50 people killed across the country today. There is unrelenting attacks that have forced people to stay out of Syria, to get out of Syria by the thousands.

George Rupp is president of the International Rescue Committee. This group helps these victims of the world's worst humanitarian crises. And you recently returned from a trip, Jordan, Turkey, essentially to figure out what is happening with the refugee crisis.

How many people are we talking about and where are they?

GEORGE RUPP, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Well, there are over 600,000 refugees and they are in all of the neighbors that Syria has. So, in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Turkey and in Iraq.

Those 600,000 are growing rapidly. Over 3,000 new refugees a day cross borders, so in a matter of months, 600,000 will become a million.

MALVEAUX: George, what did you see? Can you tell me? I'm sorry. What did you see when you went to the camps, when you saw the conditions and how refugees are living?

RUPP: Well, Suzanne, the first point is the vast majority of these refugees are not in camps. There's been a lot of coverage of camps because they're the easiest places to go where you can see significant numbers.

But let me give you the breakdown. In Lebanon, 100 percent of refugees are not in camps. In Jordan, 80 percent are not in camps. In Iraq, it's about 50 percent. It's only in Turkey that a majority, about 70 percent, are in camps.

But, overall, over all, three-quarters of the refugees are not in camps. Instead, they're living with local citizens, usually in the poorest neighborhoods, in warehouses, in little corners that they can find of space within other people's houses and they're in desperate shape.

MALVEAUX: Why is that? Why are they living with other families as opposed to refugee camps? Is the situation so bad that they'd rather go and live with families?

RUPP: No, there are no camps in most of these places. And, so, the camps that had been built in Turkey were built by the government and even they are now overfull so there are people on the border who can't get into Turkey and also some who are living outside of camps, about 30 percent.

But in Lebanon, there has no -- there isn't a tradition of camps. They have -- instead families have allowed people to live in their neighborhoods. In Jordan, the government has, in the past, made available educational health services for refugees. It's only very recently that they've begun to build camps for the Syrian refugees.

MALVEAUX: So, George, what happens to all of these people? Do they stay in these other countries? Is there a likelihood, a possibility, that they can go back home to Syria?

RUPP: Well, we met with a great many of them and they have really agonizing stories about the situation back in their home country of targeted killings, of abductions and terror, of sexual violations, of kids who witnessed family members being killed.

And, yet, in spite of that, they very much expressed a desire to go back to Syria, but the fact is they have no place to go back to and probably won't for some time.

So, we're talking about a long-term humanitarian emergency among the refugee communities outside of Syria and an even greater crisis inside Syria, where there are over 2 million people displaced, another 2 million who have no food, shelter, way of coping with winter there.

So, the needs are enormous. The neighbors of Syria have done a commendable job in extending hospitality to those who came across the border, but they are also being overwhelmed and so it is really time for the international community to step up to share some of the burden of dealing with these displaced people.

MALVEAUX: All right, George Rupp, thank you so much. We know you've seen firsthand. And, again, it is really a travesty. It's really a condition that a lot of people have to respond to, thousands now not able to return to their home country of Syria. Thank you, George.

We're also following Vice President Biden handing over his ideas to the president for what he thinks should be done to deal with the gun violence that is in our country. Going to find out what measures the White House is thinking about.


MALVEAUX: Battle lines going to be drawn this week over the national debate over gun control. We are getting more details now, this hour, about the vice president's proposals on stopping gun violence.

You're going to recall, of course, that Biden held several meetings. This happened last week. There were groups, of course, that have a real interest in this gun debate. So, we're talking about people who know those who have been shot. We're talking about gun owners. And, also, people from the entertainment industry.

According to one of the members on the task force, some of the proposals include several steps that the president could take on his own using executive orders.

I want to bring in Jessica Yellin from the White House to talk a little bit about this. And, Jess, I understand you're reporting 19 different ways, 19 different steps, that the president could act without Congress to move this forward. How so?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. That's right. Some of these things really are just better enforcement of current laws and just stepping up the way that they administer the existing law.

There's also, for example, asking the Center for Disease Control to change the way they gather research on who owns guns. They haven't actually gathered that data in many years, so they don't have a compilation of who in America has the guns, where they are.

The big one, one of them, again, I should add, is reorganizing, for example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.