AUSTIN, Texas -- Lance Armstrong stopped at his Livestrong Foundation before heading to an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday and delivered an emotional apology to staff members, some of whom broke down in tears, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussion was private.
Stripped last year of his seven Tour de France titles because of doping charges, Armstrong addressed the staff 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, and urged the group to continue fighting for the charity's mission of helping cancer patients and their families.
After the meeting, Armstrong, his legal team and close advisers gathered at a downtown Austin hotel for the interview. The cyclist was to make a limited confession to Winfrey about his role as the head of a long-running scheme to dominate the Tour with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, a person with knowledge of the situation has told the AP.
Shortly before the interview began around 1 p.m. local time, nearly a dozen of Armstrong's closest friends and advisers gathered in the hotel lobby and were escorted to the room where the taping was taking place.
The group included Armstrong attorneys Tim Herman and Sean Breen, along with Bill Stapleton, Armstrong's longtime agent, manager and business partner. All declined comment.
Winfrey and her crew had earlier said they would film the session, to be broadcast Thursday, at Armstrong's home. As a result, local and international news crews were encamped near the cyclist's Spanish-style villa before dawn.
Armstrong still managed to slip away for a run despite the crowds outside his home. He returned by cutting through a neighbor's yard and hopping a fence.
During a jog on Sunday, Armstrong talked to the AP for a few minutes saying, "I'm calm, I'm at ease and ready to speak candidly." He declined to go into specifics.
Armstrong lost all seven Tour titles following a voluminous U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that portrayed him as a ruthless competitor, willing to go to any lengths to win the prestigious race. USADA chief executive Travis Tygart labeled the doping regimen allegedly carried out by the U.S. Postal Service team that Armstrong once led, "The most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Yet Armstrong looked like just another runner getting in his roadwork when he talked to the AP, wearing a red jersey and black shorts, sunglasses and a white baseball cap pulled down to his eyes. Leaning into a reporter's car on the shoulder of a busy Austin road, he seemed unfazed by the attention and the news crews that made stops at his home. He cracked a few jokes about all the reporters vying for his attention, then added, "but now I want to finish my run," and took off down the road.
The interview with Winfrey will be Armstrong's first public response to the USADA report. Armstrong is not expected to provide a detailed account about his involvement, nor address in depth many of the specific allegations in the more than 1,000-page USADA report.
In a text to the AP on Saturday, Armstrong said: "I told her [Winfrey] to go wherever she wants and I'll answer the questions directly, honestly and candidly. That's all I can say."