While the world’s libraries are busy shifting Lance Armstrong’s autobiography from the non-fiction to the fiction shelf, I’m wondering into which genre the Australian Crime Commission’s report on the corruption of Australian sport will eventually fall.
Unless the darkest day in Australian sport is illuminated sometime soon, I’m worried it will be considered something of a docudrama based on a true story and we will be left wondering what was real and what wasn’t.
What has surprised me, given the gambling culture in this country, is that the plethora of betting agencies aren’t offering odds on which players, teams or matches will eventually be named and shamed.
Why didn’t the Australian Crime Commission investigate doping in Olympic sports as well as “the big five”, rugby league, rugby union, AFL, cricket and soccer?
The Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport report released yesterday noted how professional Aussie sport was “highly vulnerable to organised crime infiltration through legitimate business relationships with sports franchises and other associations”.
But nowhere in the report were the Olympics even mentioned. The report examined case studies involving Rugby League and the AFL. And yesterday’s press conference extended to Rugby Union, league, AFL, cricket and soccer. The report mentioned how sport had become a highly profitable exercise at global and international levels. According to ABS statistics from 2006, sport generates $8.82 billion per year.
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Lance Armstrong’s remaining fans have performed some epic intellectual back flips to rationalise the cyclist’s behaviour following his semi-contrite confession last week.
Apparently, because so many other riders were pumped up on drugs, and because it’s bloody difficult to win the Tour de France clean, Lance shouldn’t be treated so harshly for systematically defrauding the public and building himself up as a sporting legend under false pretences.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of stupid going around at the moment. Which brings me to the latest bright idea for dealing with performance enhancing drugs in sport - bare-faced surrender.
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The human brain is an amazing thing. We cram it full of stuff and nonsense and song lyrics and daydreams and it rummages through the facts and factoids and sorts them into some sort of worldview.
We commit to that worldview; we get too attached. It’s called confirmation bias. We hunt down and prioritise information that reinforces what we already hold to be true; we ignore or dismiss that which threatens the edifice we’ve built from half-formed thoughts and snippets of Alan Jones.
My brain has eagerly absorbed dozens of headlines proclaiming that red wine and chocolate are good for you. But my Pollyanna grey matter blithely skips the ‘only in moderation’ footnote. It even hurt to write that, to be honest. That’s the pang of cognitive dissonance.
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I have a confession. It’s important that this confession be made in a non-threatening environment, ideally to a very broad audience of people of which many have never heard of me before, but are still able to empathise and hopefully commend me for being so brave.
But since Oprah won’t return my calls, I’ll have to make it here. I have used performance-enhancing drugs. By “performance” I mean “my year 6 School Captain campaign speech” and by “drugs” I mean “my mum”.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, I was School Captain of Our Lady of the Way Primary School, Emu Plains in 1995. It was a year of strong policy - freshly painted handball courts, new bubblers and the introduction of senior-only lunch areas - tainted only by one minor scandal: the most sophisticated and successful doping program the school had ever seen.
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Over the years there have been plenty of “tell-all” interviews by disgraced public figures which haven’t actually told us anything, other than confirm the desperation of the subject to clear their names or at least salvage their battered reputations by blaming everybody else.
Think Alan Bond, after setting a record for his dissembling “can’t recall” efforts in court, trying to exculpate himself for leaving thousands of shareholders destitute. Tiger Woods trying to apologise for having sex with almost half the planet in a bid to win back his sponsors and get back on the clubs. Even last year’s stage-managed nonsense by the gold-medallist and piano-tosser Grant Hackett, conveniently hosted by Channel Nine ahead of his appearance as a special commentator on that network at the London Games.
I had little enthusiasm ahead of Lance Armstrong’s interview on Friday, for a couple of reasons. The first was that so much of it had been leaked in advance that it became a weird story where you felt like you were over it before it had even began. The second was that given he had spent almost two decades lying through his teeth, I doubted there was anything he could say which would be illuminating or even interesting.
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The admission by Lance Armstrong that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career may finally lead to a comprehensive account of the widespread doping during the past two decades of the sport.
Drug use has been known to cycling for decades. In the early days, some riders consumed a cocktail of amphetamines to withstand the long hours of competition, day after day, in the grand tours.
But it was the discovery of Erythropoietin (EPO) in the 1980s that has cast a long shadow over cycling to this day. EPO is the hormone that regulates red blood cell production, giving the user an unfair advantage.
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“I view this situation as one big lie.”
“It’s just this mythic perfect story and that just wasn’t true.” It just wasn’t true. After a decade of denials and threats to critics, Lance Armstrong has confessed, in a lengthy interview with Oprah Winfrey.
In 2000, Armstrong - off the back of Tour De France victory - penned the book, It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life, co-authored by a US journalist.
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There’s a very simple reason why watching other people confess their sins never fails to be fascinating – and that’s because they’re other people’s sins.
There is no worse feeling than the gnawing, tight, gut-wrenching sensation you experience when you know you’ve done the wrong thing, and realise that only you can fix it.
And it’s becoming impossible not to keep searching for some sign of that feeling among all the photos of Lance Armstrong this week.
For all the talk about doping that has dominated the news since Lance Armstrong finally admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career, there is a curious silence about another kind of dope.
Even before his spectacular fall from grace there was something nonsensical about the international fawning and obscene sums of money corporations were so eager to throw in his direction.
No-one was forced to spend millions in endorsements on a man who was, all hyperbole aside, famous for merely riding a bike very, very fast.
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Lance Armstrong, the biggest drugs cheat in sport, is having a friend over this week. The pair may compare inspiring quotes - both have spawned industries in them - and talk about the spiritual enlightenment that grows in adversity.
There will be a confession - or so says the press release - and there may be tears and a hug. Armstrong may even try telling the truth for the first time in a decade or two.
But let’s not get carried away. Armstrong has had five months since he was outed as a slimebag to practise his best version of honesty, the one that is least likely to lead to lawsuits and most likely to spark the first flickerings of public support.
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Don’t let cycling supercheat Lance Armstrong take you for another ride. This is what he’s no doubt planning to do when he appears on Oprah’s couch in a no-holds-barred interview next week.
Oprah is promising no question will be off-limits, but, interestingly, the interview will not be broadcast in full or live. No doubt Armstrong will be contrite, sincere and regretful. He may even cry.
He may need a few rehearsals to get these emotions down pat.
We all know the truth about Lance Armstrong now, and everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject. That’s all in the past; let’s take a look at the future… at least, a future which might have been and is now lost to us.
You may not know that among Republican powerbrokers in Texas, lying Lance was spoken of as a future Governor of the Lone Star State. Rich, handsome and famous, it was more or less assumed he would be unbeatable, whenever he decided he was ready to run for office.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that Armstrong was waiting for the investigation into his drug-taking to peter out and be forgotten before he made his bid. Instead, he has been discredited for all time. There’s a limit, after all, to how much lying even a politician can get away with.
Plenty of us need that large cappuccino to get us through the day at work.
But if you’re a uni student, you’ve an important exam on tomorrow (that you haven’t studied for) and you’ve only just got home from your 9-to-5 gig, well, a large cappuccino just won’t cut it.
A couple of Red Bulls might get you there…. Or maybe, some ADHD meds. Those will get you firing.
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Have you ever tried to tell someone who loves their VB (or any other mainstream beer) that there is little taste difference between their beer and others? Have you told them they could not tell the difference in a three-way blind taste test? It doesn’t go down well.
There is a disputte of delusional proportions. Right up until the glasses come out for the taste test. Fill the glasses up with VB and two other similar lagers. Ask which one is VB and they wont know. They’ll have an accuracy rate no better than chance.
Then something interesting will happen. Excuses. The glasses have soap in them. I’ve got a cold. You’re trying to trick me. And so on.
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This is just getting sad now. Defiant Lance has turned to Denial Lance, a man who oozes guilt like he used to ooze sweat while climbing Alpe d’Huez but who just won’t ’fess up and spit it all out.
To draw a parallel to a classic movie scene, Lance has become Monty Python’s Black Knight. He is on his knees, blood gushing from severed limbs with nothing left to fight with but his tongue. So he fights on with hollow words, even as the threat of perjury hangs over him.
If it wasn’t such a comical farce, it’d be downright pathetic. In fact, it is pathetic to see Lance now, each move now more aimless than the next. First he declines to fight USADA’s 1,000 pages worth of charges, yet still admits no guilt. Then he takes the title of Tour de France winner off his Twitter bio, yet still doesn’t ‘fess up to a thing.
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Cycling needs a new doping test. But this is not about drugs, rather the need to rid the sport of the dopes who’ve overseen its descent into the roadside gutter.
Top of the list is Pat McQuaid, president of cycling’s world governing body the UCI. Last night in Geneva, he announced that there was no place in cycling for Lance Armstrong and that his seven Tour De France titles would be erased from history.
Doh! It took McQuaid two weeks to come up with that bleeding obvious conclusion, which given the weight of evidence against sport’s biggest ever cheat and liar, was a huge failing in itself. But it was what McQuaid didn’t say during the press conference that was more important.
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Did we have to know? That’s the question I’ve toiled with over the past few months.
Now before you start punching punchers and furiously slamming down your fingers on the keyboard as you belt out your most brutal comments in reply – do me a favour and read right to the end, as I mentioned I’ve toiled with this question for some time.
A massive cycling fan, I’ve battled insomnia every July to stay up until the early hours of the morning watching this race.
Thou shalt not worship false idols. The problem being, of course, that we only ever learn too late that they were false; that they were cheats or curs or degenerates.
Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life, maintains his innocence in the face of doping charges.
It’s potentially the biggest sporting scandal of all time. The biggest downfall, the biggest disgrace.
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Champion or cheat? This question has hung over the head of the American cyclist, Lance Armstrong, for more than a decade. Despite the dramatic conclusion to the case against Armstrong by the US Anti Drug Agency [USADA], the question will remain unanswered.
That is because, apart from Armstrong and those close to him, nobody can honestly claim to know the truth. He continues to protest his innocence. Supporters of Armstrong will continue to observe that he has never failed a drugs test amongst the more than 500 he has taken during his stellar career.
Detractors, including the seemingly jealous sections of the French media, will continue to assert that the American was involved in a long-running, systematic conspiracy to cheat his way to victory.
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The noose has been tightening, tightening, then snap. Today, Lance Armstrong gave in. He didn’t admit he was guilty of systematic doping over the years, or any doping at all, but he’s had enough of the fight.
Some fights you can win, some you can’t. In a way it’s offensive to class any struggle with cancer as a battle, as it unfairly implies a certain weakness among those who die. That said, Lance won his battle with Testicular cancer, and he won it with honour.
No sooner had he hopped out of hospital for the umpteenth time than he started raising money to find a cure, then hopped on his bike and rode his international rivals into the ground. There’ll be some hard-bitten French sports journalists popping champagne corks tonight, while a few in the Australian press will uncork chardonnay. Let them gloat. Lance Armstrong is still a winner to me and to so many of us.
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The noose is tightening around a cycling legend. The US anti-doping agency, USADA, alleges it has collected blood samples from Lance Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 which were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
You can almost hear Armstrong spitting on the floor with disgust in his official reply, which in part reads:
“These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.”
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Taxpayers deserve to know what they’re forking out to sporting stars.
In South Australia, Premier Mike Rann - despite his reputation as a master of spin - has made a poor judgment when it comes to not disclosing how much Lance Armstrong is paid to appear at the Tour Down Under.
The State Government has continually refused to say how much it has paid the seven-time Tour de France winner to appear at the TDU, even claiming the information was commercial in confidence, thus putting the details out of the reach of freedom of information requests.
Like the rhythm of the turning pedal, the professional cycling season has followed an annual pattern for a century.
As the European winter evolves into early spring, riders take their bikes from garages and leave the velodromes to venture back onto the roads in preparation for another season. Riding at first in the slush and ice of melting snow, their thoughts turn to the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea.
Known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, the professional season traditionally commenced with Paris to Nice, a weeklong race from the French capital to the southern holiday resort.
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I don’t like cyclists as a general rule. I don’t like the way they clog up my local cafe on Saturday mornings and clip-clop around the joint in their pixie shoes.
And I sure as hell can’t cop the sight before breakfast of a middle-aged lawyer on his third wife wearing a lycra jumpsuit more in line with Cirque du Soleil.
But even I’ve stopped swerving at these road vermin this week long enough to ask: how good is Lance Armstrong?
Sure it’s early, but the 38-year-old Texan was given less chance of winning this Tour than beating the testicular, brain and lung cancer that nearly killed him not so long ago.
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