Lance Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France champion who has been hailed as one of America's greatest athletes, reportedly confessed to cheating this week after a years-long investigation by anti-doping authorities found the 41-year-old cyclist used banned performance-enhancing substances. Facing a lifetime ban from athletic competition and ample evidence compiled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he used banned substances.
Armstrong is the latest in a lengthy A-list of celebrities and powerful politicians laid low by bad behavior and forced to make public and sometimes painful confessions.
President Bill Clinton made what is perhaps the most infamous confession of sexual impropriety by a U.S. politician in history. In January 1998, soon after reports surfaced that Clinton had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he emphatically said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." By August, as a congressional investigation grilled Lewinsky and she turned over a DNA-stained dress, Clinton made a televised address to the nation, and admitted to an "improper physical relationship" with her. The House of Representatives voted to impeach the president for perjury, but he was subsequently acquitted.
Gen. David Petraeus, a decorated war hero, resigned as director of the CIA in November after an FBI investigation uncovered an extramarital affair he had with his biographer. "After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair," Petraeus confessed in a letter to CIA staff.
New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey found himself in 2004 at the center of a salacious scandal that would ultimately end his marriage and political career. At a dramatic news conference McGreevey resigned his position and admitted to being a "gay American." McGreevey confessed to a lengthy affair with an Israeli man, whom the governor had appointed to his homeland security team. Before officially resigning, McGreevey was briefly the first, and subsequently only, out gay man to be a governor.
Pop-music sensation duo Milli Vanilli was forced to return Grammy awards in 1990 after the performers confessed to taking credit for an award-winning album on which they did not actually sing. After an L.A. Times reporter discovered the ruse, Germans Fab Morvan and Rob Politus were forced to return their Best New Artist award and admit they had not contributed any vocals to the best-selling album "Girl You Know It's True."
Televangelist Jim Bakker was convicted in 1989 for fraud after a newspaper discovered and prosecutors investigated that millions of dollars in donations to his popular PTL Club were being used improperly, including to pay hush money to a church secretary with whom he had an affair. Bakker admitted to having "sinned" and later penned the memoir, "I Was Wrong." After serving five years of a 45-year sentence, Bakker was paroled in 1994.
Marion Jones, an Olympic track star and player in the WNBA confessed in 2007 to using performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, Jones was stripped of five medals she had won seven years earlier at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Jones was prosecuted for perjury as part of an investigation into BALCO, a California company linked to supplying steroids to athletes. Jones pleaded guilty and served five months in prison.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford told staffers he was "hiking the Appalachian trail" when he disappeared from the state for a week in June 2009, without letting anyone, including his family, know his whereabouts. Confronted by a reporter at the Atlanta airport after returning on a flight from Argentina, Sanford held a news conference and confessed to an affair. He said of mistress Maria Chapur that he "had met his soul mate." Sanford was censured by the state's legislature, but completed his term.
Anthony Weiner, a promising young congressman from New York, was forced to make an embarrassing confession in 2011 after it was revealed that he had sent sexually suggestive and explicit images to several women via the Internet. The newlywed Democrat resigned from Congress after first trying to deny the images were of himself and alleging that his Twitter account had been hacked. "I am here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused," he said in his resignation speech.
Ted Haggard was the influential pastor of Colorado's New Life Church, a charismatic megachurch with more 10,000 members, before a sex scandal that led to his 2006 confession of using gay prostitutes and crystal meth. Haggard helped elect President George W. Bush and supported an amendment to the Colorado constitution that would ban gay marriage. In a 2006 letter to members of his church, Haggard admitted to "sexual immorality" and called himself a "sinner and a liar." He was removed from the leadership of the church, and has since founded a new church and supports same-sex marriage.