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Armstrong Comes Clean; Some Hostages in Algeria Released

Aired January 18, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Oh, Carol, he can say so much more. I'm dying to see it. Thank you, Miss Costello. Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

He didn't tell all, but he sure told plenty, didn't he? Finally coming clean about doping but never believe was cheating, not at the time anyway. And now if you caught part one Lance Armstrong's full- baring session with Oprah Winfrey, you know this is not the Lance who cruised to seven Tour de France bicycle victories and rolled over anyone who crossed him.

This Lance is saying yes after more than a decade of saying no.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Yes or no, did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?


WINFREY: Yes or no, was one of those banned substances EPO?


WINFREY: Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?


WINFREY: Did you ever use any other banned substances like testosterone, cortisone or human growth hormone?


WINFREY: Yes or no, in all seven of your Tour de France victories did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?


WINFREY: In your opinion was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping? Seven times in a row.

ARMSTRONG: Not in my opinion.


BANFIELD: Wow. And that was just in the first minute and a half of the interview. You kind of got it all there.

But, really, there is so much more and I'm going to play a lot more in the hour ahead. You will hear more of Lance Armstrong's jaw-dropping interview.

First I want to go right to the heart of where it all happened, at least where it started, Austin, Texas, Lance Armstrong's hometown, home base.

CNN's George Howell is there. George, you know, this is not just a story where people across America are in disbelief are in -- you know, are outraged, are still angry, are considering forgiving him. This must be hell in his hometown.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Ashleigh, the question here, was it believable, you know, he said all of the right words, but is he truly, sincerely apologetic, you know, for what he did here?

And when you talk to people, some ask, you know, does it really make a difference, and some say they are disappointed. There are cyclists who are livid, Ashleigh, about what they heard the other night.

But I spoke with one person, Michael Hall. He writes for "Texas Monthly" he rode with Lance and he knows him well enough, and he said when you listen to what Lance Armstrong had to say, you do have to question whether he really meant it.

Take a listen.


MICHAEL HALL, SENIOR EDITOR, "TEXAS MONTHLY": He said the words, he said all the words that he should have said. He confessed to al the drugs. He called it a -- one big lie, which is exactly what it was. He said all the right things.

But I don't know that he said them in the ways that people wanted to hear them, you know, I don't know that he said them with the kind of sincerity, with the kind of contrition that normal people want to hear.


HOWELL: I want to read this statement from the USADA, the anti-doping agency and this is one reaction that we're getting. It's from Travis Tygart. It's says, quote, "His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction, but if he's sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes he'll testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities."

So keep in mind, again, what we heard the other night and what we'll hear again tonight, Ashleigh, it was a confession on television to a television host. It was not under oath and there were a lot of names that were left out here.

So, whether Lance Armstrong makes that step to name names and testify under oath we have yet to see.

BANFIELD: And then, of course, George, you're right. This was to Oprah. This wasn't to all of those victims that he steamrolled to keep his lies alive. And, you know, a lot of people say their lives were ruined, literally, financially ruined by Lance Armstrong.

And when Oprah asked him the questions about how he could do this, what was it about his DNA that allowed him to perpetrate this lie for so long, let me play how he characterized his flawed character.


ARMSTRONG: I was used to controlling everything in my life. I controlled every outcome in my life.

WINFREY: You've been doing that forever>

ARMSTRONG: Yes. Especially when it comes to sport. But this is the last thing I'll say is that now the story is so bad and so toxic and a lot of it's true.


BANFIELD: A lot of it's toxic. A lot of it's true.

So, George, I know this is a really tough question to ask just in the wake, this has only been several hours since the final tape, you know, came to an end on Oprah's network, but ...

HOWELL: Right.

BANFIELD: ... how many people who stood by him, particularly in that town. That is his home base. How many people are going to say, all right, I like a comeback. He has been contrite. I believe in the tape. Let's move on.

And how many people are saying, not so fast?

HOWELL: You do find a mix of opinions. It's a mixed reaction because this is a character who had a very divided -- who has a very divided public image.

Even today in Austin, there are people that I've spoken with who say, look, he made his confession. He gave the confession. It's time to move on, because this is a person who did some great things for cancer research and perhaps as he moves forward he can do more great things.

But there are also those who were burned by Lance Armstrong, people who feel that they were misled, that he is a fraud. One person who said, you know, no, I'm not going to tune in, this person said, tonight's televised confession from Lance Armstrong because he'd heard enough.

So, there are people who are just fed up, who are tired of Lance and want nothing more to do with him, fair to say. BANFIELD: Oh, wow, no, I still want to see that -- Oprah was great in how she teased ahead to tonight as to why he tweeted out that picture of himself just hanging around with all my yellow jerseys. I mean, he's still got a lot of answers still to deliver.

George Howell, live in Austin for us, thank you for that.

George just mentioned some people willing to move on, some people not so fast. Yeah, there are a lot of people saying, not so fast.

Armstrong says the very instincts that helped him to overcome his cancer were his actual undoing in life as well.


ARMSTRONG: I think this just ruthless desire to win, win at all costs, truly, that serves me well on the bike, served me well during the disease, but then the level that it went to for whatever reason is a flaw.

And then that defiance, that attitude, that arrogance, you cannot deny it. I mean, you watch that clip, that's an arrogant person. I look at this, look at this arrogant prick. I say that today. It's not good.


BANFIELD: So, look, a lot of people say that is real contrition, that statements like that are painful and they're unflattering.

But are they good enough for everybody who fell in his wake of deception, dishonesty and attacks, brutal, brutal, arrogant attacks?

I want to specifically point to one person named Betsy Andreu. She's the wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu. Armstrong dropped Frankie as a teammate after Betsy accused Lance of doping in 1996.

Here's how it happened. She says that she and her husband were present in a hospital bed -- in a hospital room when Lance was in a hospital bed and had to answer some tough questions to the doctors about his health.

When the doctors asked, have you been taking any drugs, any performance enhancing drugs, she says that Lance listed a litany of them and that she gave that testimony under oath when she was asked.

She just said she was honest and for that honesty, she and her husband were attacked and that their lives were changed forever and then, as I said already, her husband dumped from the team.

Betsy had a chance to respond to the Oprah interview and she did so by speaking directly to camera via Anderson Cooper's "AC 360" program last night. You've got to see it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BETSY ANDREU, WIFE OF FORMER ARMSTRONG TEAMMATE: You owed it to me, Lance, and you dropped the ball, after what you've done to me, what you've done to my family, and you couldn't own up to it.

And now we're supposed to believe you? You have one chance at the truth. This is it.


BANFIELD: Remarkable stuff.

Lance actually touched on the topic -- did you call Betsy and Frankie and did you discuss this with them and apologize to them? His answers was pretty cagey. He said I don't want to characterize what was said in that private conversation, but in the end, no, I didn't make peace. I talked to them. I didn't make peace.

And methinks, my "Spidey-senses" tell me, this could very end up in a libel suit that the Andreus could launch against Lance Armstrong. You'll hear more from Betsy a little later on in this program.

The Andreus are hardly the only people Lance Armstrong lied to or threatened. CNN's Ed Lavandera now looking back on a decade of personal attacks by the cyclist who lied about the secrets behind his remarkable success.


ARMSTRONG: Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lance Armstrong's path to glory and now shame has left a trail of personal destruction along the way especially those who dared question how the iconic cyclist won seven Tour de France titles.

EMMA O'REILLY, FORMER U.S. POSTAL TEAM ASSISTANT: (INAUDIBLE) of the medical program is a drugs program. You know, so, that was sort of what it was called.

LAVANDERA: Emma O'Reilly joined Armstrong's cycling team in the late- 1990s. She worked as a masseuse. O'Reilly also said her job involved transporting and delivering drugs for the cycling team.

The report says she once made an 18-hour, round-trip drive between France and Spain to pick up pills and even met Lance Armstrong in the parking lot of a McDonald's in southern France to deliver a drug package.

Armstrong once told her, now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down.

O'REILLY: History has shown that I didn't have enough to bring him down and I never wanted to bring him down. Never, ever wanted to bring Lance down.

LAVANDERA: But in 2003 she told her story publicly for the first time. Lance Armstrong sued her for libel and she says vilified her as a prostitute and an alcoholic. They settled out of court.

GREG LEMOND, THREE-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE CHAMPION: He's caused a lot of difficulty in my personal and business life.

LAVANDERA: Before Lance Armstrong Greg Lemond was the most famous American cyclist, but when Lemond questioned Armstrong's close ties to the controversial Italian doctor, Michele Ferrari, a man who's been banned in cycling in Italy and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong worked to get the bike company Trek to drop Greg Lemond's bike brand.

LEMOND: He's not somebody I want even to put energy into, to be honest. And I think he has his own issues, own problems, that he'll have to deal with.

LAVANDERA: Then there is the story of Frankie and Betsy Andreu, once dear friends of Lance Armstrong, but when the couple refused to keep up the myth of Lance, they say Armstrong turned on them, calling them bitter, vindictive and jealous.

In 2008, Betsy Andreu says she got this voice mail from a friend of Armstrong's which she provided to the "New York Daily News." Here's part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope somebody breaks a baseball bat over your head. But I also hope that one day you will have adversity in your life and you have some type of tragedy. Pathetic, Betsy, I thought you were a better person than that.

LAVANDERA: Lance Armstrong's fiercest critics say he would do anything to protect himself.

In the end it wasn't all about the bike, like his book proclaimed. It might just be all about the glory.


BANFIELD: Ed Lavandera reporting for us. And you heard Ed reporting about Emma O'Reilly, the personal assistant to Lance Armstrong whom Lance said, you know enough to bring me down.

Last night, Oprah said, was her story true, Lance? And he said, yes, she was one of the people I ran over. I bullied.

But then remarkably when it was about suing her, his response was, you know, to be honest, I don't -- I just sued so many people. It almost seemed like he didn't even remember suing his personal assistant.

And while this may have been all about the glory, pretty soon the lawsuits that he was launching may be coming right back at him. I alluded to it earlier, libel and more, whistle-blowing, federal, ten of millions of dollars just the beginning.

I'm going to have more on the legal hurdles ahead for Lance Armstrong in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: We are just starting to learn how many hostages have been taken in Algeria. This is no small operation. Algerian state media is saying that more than 600 hostages have been released from a remote gas plant near the border with Libya, including 100 of the 132 foreign workers among them.

I mean, imagine, 600 plus have been released, but we don't know how many are still captive. That's a lot of hostages.

CNN's not able to independently confirm this Algerian report at this time, but we do know this. Right now, the U.S. is in the process of evacuating between 10 and 20 people who were caught up in this hostage-taking crisis.

U.S. officials are saying that President Obama is receiving regular updates on this crisis from his national security team and that his first priority is the safety and security of these hostages. The defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is saying, quote, "terrorists who murder or kidnap Americans will be hunted down."

One escaped hostage is saying that he had plastic explosives strapped around his neck. His brother spoke about the terrifying moments.


BRIAN MCFAUL, BROTHER OF ESCAPED IRISH HOSTAGE: Yeah. We just found out recently that he'd been made to sleep with Semtex tied around his neck or strapped around his neck.

He had duct tape over his mouth and his hands tied and then we find out how he got free and was removed in five convoy loads out of the compound or to a different part of the compound.

And one convoy, one of the Jeeps Steven was in. There were five Jeeps and the Algerian army had bombed the Jeeps and out of five Jeeps, the bombs, four of them were hit and wiped out and they were -- obviously, they lost their lives.

But luckily enough for my brother, he was in the Jeep that crashed and he was able to make a break for freedom with the Semtex still around his neck.


BANFIELD: Pretty calm account from the brother, but the little boy, the son of the escaped hostage here, expressing relief and tears over the news that his dad finally among those hostages who were freed and, hopefully, on his way home to reunite with his family in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

But you just look at that face and you realize the human cost of just what the news of being kept hostage brings to a family. Imagine those families who still don't know whether their loved one is among those who will be freed or has been freed.

Our Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon and she's working this story to try to get any details you can.

Understandably, this is a pretty sensitive operation. I can imagine the Pentagon is keeping things pretty close to the vest, but what can they tell us about Americans caught up in this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Ashleigh, the stories that we are beginning to hear are just harrowing as you pointed out.

CNN is reporting that one French hostage says he hid under his bed for 40 hours. Other hostages saying they disguised themselves as Algerians to escape.

The U.S., as you say, trying to get about 10 to 20 hostages out of there, see what kind of medical care they might need, try and get these people back to Europe and get them onward back to their families in their home countries. The confusion still very high, three days into this.

We are told the operation by the Algerians to try and get some control over this remains ongoing. The British prime minister, David Cameron, says they still don't have a firm notion quite yet of how many British citizens are involved. The U.S. not saying how many U.S. citizens are involved.

And I think what you pointed out about defense secretary, Leon Panetta, really interesting, Ashleigh. He's in London today on a trip speaking and one of the other things he said, and I want to read it to everyone, quote, "Terrorists should be on notice they will not find sanctuary, refuge in Algeria, in Africa, not anywhere. Those who would attack have no place to hide."

Pretty tough words from the secretary of defense, but how he might or the Obama administration might carry that out in a place like Algeria where that government and their military forces are making it clear they don't want outside help, might be pretty hard for the U.S. to live up to that promise at least for the moment.


BANFIELD: Well, you know, Barbara, we're four month from September 11th, where in next door Libya we still don't have an arrest of said terrorists who dared to do what they did to us, kill our ambassador and take out others who were serving in the mission there.

So, I mean, I love that tough talk, but, please, really, can we?

STARR: Yeah. No, I think you have actually just hit on it. Everyone is now very anxious to say that North Africa, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, all of this is the new front for al Qaeda, safe havens, the war on terror.

A lot of words being thrown around, Ashleigh, but action on the ground, being able to put military force into there and hunt down these North African al Qaeda leaders and the cells of al Qaeda, that's another thing. A lot of these countries are not anxious for outside force, for outside help. You know, in Mali right now, the people are very -- want the French there because they're pushing the militants back.

But I think what we're seeing is the militants have real capability here to go after some of these facilities and hold them at risk. Very tough to go after.

BANFIELD: Boy, I'll say. I mean, Barbara, when I heard this new development that the numbers ranged into the many hundreds.

At first we thought, look, any hostage taking can happen, these things happen, but the sophistication to take this many people hostage, I think it's shocking and I think you hit the nail on the head. North Africa needs a lot more attention.

Barbara Starr, would you give us any updates as you get them?

STARR: You bet.

BANFIELD: Reporting live for us at the Pentagon.

The U.S. and Britain and other governments involved are demanding more information from Algeria about the military operation that we're hearing is ongoing hours upon hours into it, specifically, why they were not told about the raid before it was actually launched.


BANFIELD: On Monday, millions of us are going to be watching President Obama when he raises his right hand and takes the oath of the office of president, which will be live, of course, right here on CNN.

Today, though, we're looking beyond that inauguration and we're breaking down the challenges that President Obama's going to be facing in this final term. Gun control and jobs and stability, of course, in the Middle East.

But up first, the biggie, taxes. Here's Christine Romans.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSTINESS CORRESPONDENT: The challenge, tax reform. For the first time in 20 years, taxes are going up for the rich. They'll pay a higher top marginal income tax rate, higher taxes on dividends and capital gains and a higher estate tax rate, but it could have been worse.

BOB HERBERT, SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: I think that the wealthy got off pretty easily here. There's a modest tax increase for the very wealthiest in the society, very tiny percentage.

I frankly think that there are more taxes coming and they will bite deeper into the middle-class. ROMANS: In fact, two-thirds of Americans will pay higher taxes in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center. The tax bite for the middle-class comes from the end of the payroll tax cut, a temporary tax break that wasn't renewed in the fiscal cliff deal.

But whatever happened to comprehensive tax reform?

REPRESENTATIVE DAVE CAMP (R), MICHIGAN: The IRS tax code is still a nightmare. It's too complex. Too costly, and too unfair.

ROMANS: Both sides say they're open to simplifying the tax code. More than 70,000 pages in 2012. The U.S. government gives away more than a trillion dollars a year in tax breaks, but Republicans say reform isn't about squeezing more money out of taxpayers.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I think tax reform is a good idea, but now that we have resolved the revenue issue, tax reform ought to be revenue neutral as it was back during the Reagan administration.

ROMANS: The president and congressional Democrats disagree.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code. The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn't be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Trust me. There are plenty things within that tax code. These loopholes where people can park their money on some island offshore and not pay taxes, these are things that need to be closed.

ROMANS: A major overhaul of the tax code hasn't happened since 1986 when the political system was much less polarized.

But deficit hawks insist a big deal, a so-called grand bargain, is critical for jumping starting U.S. economic growth.

MAYA MACGUINEAS, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: We've got to reform the tax code and probably raise more revenues than we have and, importantly, we have to focus on controlling spending and reforming our entitlements which are right now unsustainable.

Delaying all of this is irresponsible.

ROMANS: Hard choices ahead. Whether the Congress and the president can come together remains to be seen.

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


BALDWIN: And, remember, you can catch a special inauguration coverage right here on CNN. Live coverage begins on Sunday continuing into Monday. Our mornings begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.


BALDWIN: Disgraced cycling great Lance Armstrong admitted that not a single one of his seven Tour de France titles was won in a clean way. Every single one of them was accomplished while taking banned substances.