It has been said that I am an opinionated so and so. That I can’t be told anything. I am stubborn and unbending. All these assertions may be right. I don’t agree, but I have heard them often enough to know there is probably some semblance of truth in them.
Never more so have these accusations been made than in the past week or two. Well, ever since Lance Armstrong said he was going to quit fighting the USADA. Since then, I have had quite a few arguments with people on forums, Twitter, Facebook and god forbid, real life! Ranging from light hearted banter to one suggestion via a direct message on Twitter that if I lived in the USA I would now be in a shallow grave. Nothing like a virtual death threat to focus the mind.
Despite what plenty of people will say about me, I think I have tried to make my point with facts and figures that I have pulled from all over the internet, cycling magazines and podcasts. If I am going to make an argument, I try and get my facts right so at least I don’t have them come flying back in my face. Try as I do, this sometimes still happens.
Now before I get to my point, just a clarification on my feelings towards Lance Armstrong. I remember in 2009 when I got back on a bicycle again, after a long time off it, I listened to Armstrong’s audio book, “It’s not about the bike”. How could you not be impressed by this inspiring tale. I followed lance on Twitter. I all but bought a Livestrong armband. I started buying cycling magazines again. Joined some forums. Read sites like cyclingnews.com and slowly but surely my opinion changed. By late last year I was firmly of the belief that he had pulled some dastardly deeds in his career, along with a lot of those around him, Johan Bruyneel being the main co-conspirator.
So, just for transparency sake, I am anti Lance. Anti Lance, not Anti Livestrong. There is a difference.
Back to my point. Yesterday afternoon I noticed someone said that The Gruen Planet ( you can view the show from Australia on this link http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/25882 ), a local show about marketing and advertising, was going to be talking about the Armstrong case. Might be worth a look. It is usually a pretty funny show, so I plonked myself down and got ready for a few giggles.
It wasn’t long before I was wondering where these people got their information? Surely, if you are going to appear on a national TV show, you’d do some research. Now I realise these people aren’t cycling experts, but given that a good 20 minutes was spent on the topic, you’d like to think some research would be done. I have to wonder.
I have picked out a few quotes from the show and given my take on them.
Talking about whether it was a smart move not to contest the charge, Todd Sampson had this to say…“The court of public opinion is more important than the legal court”. Really, I would like to see the court of public opinion ban an athlete from competing.
Russel Howcroft trotted out this little beauty straight from the Book of Lance… “He’s had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tests, and at no time has he ever been caught”. Actually, he has been caught. It is pretty common knowledge in cycling circles that he has been tested positive before. Before the USADA evidence comes out, the 2 that stand out both got swept under the carpet pretty quickly. Plenty of info here …. http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/index-of-lance-armstrong-doping-allegations-over-the-years Also, as Jane Flemming, a former professional athlete who was on the panel pointed out, they may not have been testing for what he was doing. The tests, by their very nature, will always be behind the doping doctors.
Talking about whether he had given up, Sampson said… “he hasn’t given up, he shifted, has taken the wind out of the sails of the accusers, because now, they can not produce the evidence, they can not dig for the evidence, they can’t actually produce it because he is not going to court”. Cycling website inrng.com says it far better than I can in this article.
Will we ever get to hear more about the apparent evidence?
Yes. Armstrong is only one name in this case, the case includes Bruyneel, Pedro Celaya, Luis del Moral, Michele Ferrari and Joseph “Pepe” Marti, all of whom are active in cycling whether openly or behind the scenes. Assuming things still go to arbitration then USADA will present its evidence in detail and in due course it will be public says USADA boss Travis Tygart.
Sampson then brings up a point saying with regards the 500 Million dollars Livestrong has raked in, calling it a moral dilemna, and asking if people would do take drugs to win races if your were guaranteed that sort of money. Host Wil Anderson then chips in with this line “Its not even that. All you have to do is if you said I’ll give you 500 million dollars for charity and you just have to take drugs in a race where every one else is already taking drug.” Rubbish. There are plenty of clean cyclists. The period Lance raced the Tour de France may well have been the dirtiest ever, but try telling Christophe Bassons he was a drug cheat!
Sampson then went on a little rant about the “USDA” having no clue about social media. Fair enough, but do they need a Twitter account? How many enforcement agencies have social media channels? And if you are going to bag something, get it right, it is the USADA.
Howcroft then put forward the theory of the institution vs the individual and how that masses would potentially side with the individual. Really, Armstrong the individual? I would assume that everyone in Armstrong’s entourage has their own entourage. To say he is an individual is ridiculous. He would have a room full of PR and legal people.
Sampson had this to say of viewership…. “It has to be said, since Lance Armstrong has retired, the viewership has declined massively.” According to SBS, their 3 biggest years were 2008, 2011 and 2012 (Thanks Wade at cyclingtips.com.au). Three tours that Lance didn’t race. Now he may have been speaking of global numbers, if that is the case, I dont have the figures, but locally, it would suggest just the opposite of what he claimed.
So, enough taking it out of The Gruen Planet, overall it is an entertaining show.
The other clanger that recently surfaced is the Phil Liggett interview on Ballz radio. I am not even going to put a link to the interview, but Liggett, a long time friend of Armstrong’s went troppo in the interview making all sorts of ridiculous claims. Now, this is even worse than The Gruen Planet, because there are a hell of a lot of people who think Liggett is the voice of cycling. These days though, he is more like the voice of that crazy uncle that gets wheeled out at Christmas because all the family is around. The family all know he is mentally unstable, but if you let him loose at a shopping centre, who’d know. Well that is Liggett these days.
Armstrong has plenty of people going into bat for him, but the worrying thing for me is the amount of people who hear what Liggett and other mainstream media has to say and accept it as fact. Even famed cycling photographer Graham Watson is a massive fan of Armstrong, to the point that he has previously ridiculed Greg LeMond, someone who doesn’t worship at the Church of Lance, on his own website.
Overall, a pretty sad state of affairs. It would be great to see a few more facts in the mainstream media, but given the state of play currently, I don’t hold out much hope.