Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist at the centre of the biggest doping scandal in the sport's history, may admit he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing unidentified sources.
Such an admission would be a stunning reversal for Armstrong, who has vehemently denied doping for years.
The Times reported that Armstrong, 41, has told associates and anti-doping officials he may make the admission in hopes of persuading anti-doping officials to allow him to resume competition in athletic events that adhere to the World Anti-Doping Code, under which Armstrong is currently subject to a lifetime ban.
Asked if Armstrong might admit to doping, Armstrong's lawyer Tim Herman told the Times: "Lance has to speak for himself on that."
The newspaper, citing an unidentified person briefed on the situation, said Armstrong has been in discussions with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and met with Travis Tygart, the agency's chief executive.
The paper, citing the same source, said Armstrong is also seeking to meet with David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Armstrong's lawyer denied his client had talked with Tygart, according to the Times.
Howman said in a statement the agency had read "with interest" media accounts of Armstrong's possible intention to confess.
"To date, WADA has had no official approach from Mr Armstrong or his legal representatives, but – as with anyone involved in anti-doping violations – it would welcome any discussion that helps in the fight against doping in sport," Howman said.
A spokeswoman for the USADA declined to comment.
An October 10 report from the USADA citied Armstrong's involvement in what it characterised as the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen," involving anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, blood transfusions and other doping.
Less than two weeks later, Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories were nullified and he was banned from cycling for life after the International Cycling Union ratified the USADA's sanctions against him.
Wealthy supporters of Livestrong, the charity Armstrong helped found, have been seeking to convince Armstrong to come forward to clear his conscience and spare the organisation from further damage, the Times reported, citing a person with knowledge of the situation.
But an official with Livestrong said the group was unaware of any pressure on Armstrong by organisation donors to admit anything, and declined to comment further.
Calls to Armstrong's attorney and Capital Sports & Entertainment, which represents Armstrong, were not returned yesterday.
Austin, Texas-based Livestrong was launched in 2003 by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which the cyclist founded in 1997, a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
In October, he stepped down from his post as chairman of the board, saying he did not want the doping controversy to affect the organisation. A few weeks later, he quit the board outright.
World Anti-Doping rules permit under certain circumstances penalties for admitted dopers to be reduced.