ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — The government of South Australia state said Tuesday it will seek damages or compensation from Lance Armstrong after his reported confession to Oprah Winfrey that he doped during his career.
Roger Federer, meanwhile, wants to hear the confession for himself.
South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said the state would seek the repayment of several million dollars in appearance fees paid to Armstrong for competing in the Tour Down Under cycle race in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Weatherill said reports that Armstrong has admitted doping during a recorded interview with Winfrey, due to be broadcast in the United States on Thursday, changed the government's view on its entitlement to compensation.
He said Armstrong "has deceived the cycling community around the world" by repeatedly denying he used performance-enhancing drugs during a career in which he won the Tour de France seven times.
"We'd be more than happy for Mr. Armstrong to make any repayment of monies to us," Weatherill said.
Meanwhile, speaking from the Australian Open at Melbourne Park after advancing easily into the second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 win over Benoit Paire, Federer said he'd be "intrigued to hear the interview."
"There has been a lot of talk about it, and obviously, you know, a lot of focus on Lance and the cycling part," the 17-time tennis Grand Slam winner said. "It's obviously been a difficult situation for the whole of the sport and for him and all the people involved. So I've got to get the facts right and just hear what he said, really."
French tennis veteran Michael Llodra voiced the sentiment of many of his countrymen, saying "we were suspicious" of Armstrong's achievements.
"But if he's announcing that he was doping it's a shame because it's a sport that's trying to save its image," Llodra added. "If the champion was doing it, it's not good for the image of cycling.
"It's always disappointing to find out that an athlete was doping, but especially an icon of international sports," he said. "It's really a shame because he gave dreams to so many kids. He was full of lofty words — but now we know they were just words."
Weatherill refused to say how much the South Australian state government paid to Armstrong to secure his participation in the ProTour race for three-straight years. The figure has been placed as high as $9 million over three years, but Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur has disputed that figure.
Armstrong chose the Australian cycle tour, the first event of the annual ProTour, to make his return to professional cycling in 2009 after a two-year retirement. He also made the six-stage road race his last professional race before his final retirement in 2011.
The South Australian government paid appearance fees to Armstrong to build the profile of the race and promote tourism. That effort was hugely successful and in each of the years Armstrong competed, hundreds of thousands watched the race live and millions more saw it on television.
Armstrong's presence increased spectator attendance at the 2009 race by more than 212,000 and doubled the number of media accredited to cover the event.
Turtur this week said he doubted that fallout from Armstrong's interview with Winfrey would damage this year's Tour Down. Armstrong's former team, Radioshack-Leopard Trek, is among the teams contesting the race which starts with a criterium prologue on Sunday.
"We've got all these exciting young athletes and in respect to them, we need to show we appreciate what they're doing," he said.
Team directors and individual riders in Australia for the Tour Down Under have refused to comment until the Armstrong interview has screened. The Radioshack team directed media inquiries to its head of communications who was en-route to Australia on Wednesday.
Leading cycling commentator Phil Liggett said if Armstrong had confessed he hoped he was at peace with himself.
"Assuming that he has confessed then I hope he could tell the absolute truth and was able to make peace with himself," Liggett told The Adelaide Advertiser. "If he's done that then the sport can move forward without him."
Armstrong has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and for a decade he strenuously denied doping and resorted to lawsuits to protect his reputation.
The publication of a damning 1,000-page report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which placed Armstrong at the center of what it called one of the most sophisticated doping operations in sports, has led to counter-suits against the rider.
Those who had been successfully sued by Armstrong, including Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, are now seeking repayment of the damages they were forced to pay. Others are seeking repayment of sponsorships and prize money paid during Armstrong's career as the world's most famous professional cyclist.