Brace yourselves, America: Lance Armstrong is coming clean in prime time.
The cyclist admitted in a "no holds barred" interview with Oprah Winfrey in Austin on Monday that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his legendary career. The 2 1/2-hour conversation will be aired over two nights, starting at 8 p.m. Thursday on OWN and Oprah.com.
Fans and critics of Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times but was unceremoniously stripped of the titles last year, were waiting anxiously to see if he'd finally admit to cheating, after years of suspicion and a mountain of evidence in a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Armstrong's fall from grace has been as spectacularly and as grotesquely riveting as a peloton crash on an Alpine mountainside, and will go down as one of the biggest scandals in the history of American sports.
As for his on-camera admission of wrongdoing, though, Armstrong becomes just the latest celebrity to follow what has become a well-trodden path to the public confessional booth: months or years of suspicion, leading to a succession of evidence surfacing, followed by public disgrace/mistrust, vehement denial and then, finally, an admission of guilt in front of a national TV audience.
You know the PR drill.
In fact, the Armstrong interview airs on the 15th anniversary of the start of one of the other biggest scandals in American history: the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.
Here are eight scandal-ridden public figures -- athletes, politicians and a televangelist -- who followed a most memorable route to public confession, and what happened as a result.
President Bill Clinton
The scandal: An "inappropriate" relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Bill Clinton was vilified by the far right during much of his presidency, despite unprecedented peacetime economic growth. As current economic woes continue, history is being kinder to the Clinton presidency, but his legacy is forever stained (so to speak) by "Monicagate," in which the 42nd president engaged in sex acts with 22-year-old intern Lewinsky and then lied about it under oath. First news of the scandal broke Jan. 17, 1998, on the Drudge Report.
Months of media scrutiny, independent counsel investigation and vehement denials, including a famous one by his wife, Hillary Clinton, blaming a "vast right-wing conspiracy," ensued.
After wagging his finger at the American public and stating that he "did not have sexual relations with that woman," he addressed the nation on television Aug. 17, 1998, stating, "I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong."
And then: Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 19, 1998, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, but was acquitted by the Senate. Despite the scandal, Clinton remains a popular political figure and most recently appeared on the Golden Globes telecast Sunday night to introduce the film Lincoln.
President Richard Nixon
The scandal: Watergate.
On May 28, 1972, five loyalists, including former CIA operatives, broke into the Democratic National Committee's Washington, D.C., headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex, kick-starting the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States. The burglars installed wiretapping devices and photographed secret documents.
After it was revealed during the Senate Watergate Committee's hearings that office tapes may have implicated President Nixon in the break-in, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over said recordings.
With impeachment looming large, Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974. But he remained defiant: In a 1977 interview with David Frost, he said he only went to the "edge" of the law. Nixon's successor, President Gerald Ford, granted him an unconditional pardon.
And then: Watergate, in conjunction with the Vietnam War, fueled America's mistrust of its own government; the scandal also created a suffix, "-gate," which has found its way into the vernacular as a way to name a scandal.
The scandal: Steroid use.
Marion Jones was a superstar athlete. After winning track medals at the 1997 and 1999 World Championships, she dominated the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games, winning three gold medals and two bronze. She was one of the highest-paid female track and field stars of all time.
But accusations of steroid usage plagued Jones almost from the start. After years of vehement denials, including lying to a grand jury, she admitted at an October 2007 press conference to having taken steroids before the 2000 Olympics, saying, "I have betrayed your trust.... It was an incredibly stupid thing for me to do."
And then: Jones had to forfeit all her track and field awards dating back to September 2000. She was suspended from the sport for two years, and sentenced to 6 months jail time in the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth in 2008 for lying to federal agents.
The scandal: Steroid use.
Famed wrestler Hulk Hogan holds the dubious distinction of both denying and admitting to steroid use in the same interview. In a 1991 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, Hall asked Hogan about newspaper reports relating to the subject. Hogan said, "I'm not a steroid user, and I don't use steroids." He quickly followed this with an anecdote about physical therapy involving "legal prescription drugs" given to him by his doctor, including "a synthetic male hormone, which is a form of a steroid."
In 1994, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, testified in court that steroid use "was fairly common" among WWF wrestlers and that he believed his steroid usage was legal because he had a prescription for it. Hogan's doctor was George T. Zahorian, who had been convicted of illegal steroid distribution.
And then: Since pro wrestling is considered "fake" by most of the general public, Hogan's steroid usage didn't affect him nearly as much as a "legitimate" athlete like Mark McGwire, but the doublespeak on the Arsenio Hall Show was truly an embarrassment.
The scandal: Solicitation of prostitutes.
On Feb. 21, 1988, Pentecostal televangelist Jimmy Swaggart gave one of the most famous confessional speeches of all time. With tears streaming down his face, he said, "I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness, not to be remembered against me anymore." Without revealing specifics, Swaggart was apologizing for indiscretions with prostitute Debra Murphree, whom he was seen with at a Travel Inn in New Orleans.
On Oct. 11, 1991, he was pulled over by a police officer in Indio, Calif., for driving on the wrong side of the road. He was with Rosemary Garcia, a prostitute, who told the officer, "He asked me for sex."
And then: Swaggart, who was defrocked by the Assemblies of God for his behavior, still has several public forums for imploring people not to sin (including The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast seen on SonLife Broadcasting Network), but his audience and influence are much smaller than they were before the scandals.
The scandal: Extramarital affair and paternity of a baby from the relationship.
The National Enquirer broke the story of the 2006 affair between Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and former campaign worker Rielle Hunter, which the paper began covering in October 2007.
After initially denying the affair, Edwards admitted to ABC News' Bob Woodruff that portions of the National Enquirer story were true, but that he wasn't the father of Hunter's baby (an Edwards staffer falsely claimed the baby was his). After pressure from Hunter's family and much public scrutiny, Edwards admitted publicly in January 2010 that he was the father.
And then: Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, separated from him before her death from cancer in December 2010. Edwards also was brought up on federal charges that he spent campaign money to hide his relationship with Hunter, but he was found not guilty. Other charges against Edwards, including conspiracy, were dropped. Edwards no longer holds public office.
The scandal: Steroid use.
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire hit a record-breaking 70 homeruns in 1998. McGwire played during the so-called "steroids era," when bulked-up batters such as McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro were knocking the ball out of the park like tennis balls over a net.
During a March 17, 2005, Congressional hearing, McGwire was evasive in answering the steroid question: "I'm not here to talk about the past," he said. However, on Jan. 11, 2010, McGwire told Bob Costas on the MLB Network that he used steroids off and on throughout the 1990s. "I wish I had never touched steroids," he said. "It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize."
And then: McGwire maintains that he took steroids for health reasons and that he could have hit all those homers without using them, but his reputation is forever damaged, as evidenced by the recent snub in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting.
The scandal: Betting on baseball.
Although he denied it for nearly 15 years, Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose placed bets on Major League Baseball games while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds, the team on which he broke hitting records as a player. He revealed as much in his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, which was published Jan. 8, 2004.
The same day My Prison was released, Rose came clean via a televised interview with Charles Gibson on the ABC news program Primetime Thursday. "I bet on baseball in 1987 and 1988," Rose told Gibson. "That was my mistake, not coming clean a lot earlier."
And then: On Aug. 24, 1989, Rose "volunteered" to a lifetime ban from baseball; he remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame.