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Posts Tagged ‘ Lance Armstrong ’

Webber Eyes Podium Finish In Penultimate Race

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Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber says a mixture of the Texan countryside, hard training and the hospitality of old Texan friends from his time spent there during his amateur cycling days has inspired positivity for his penultimate race at the US Grand Prix.

Writing in his exclusive blog on the sport social network, Sportlobster.com, keen amateur cyclist Webber, who used to visit Austin and cycle with former friend – disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong – says meeting old friends and training in the Texan countryside has helped preparations. Continue reading

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O’Dowd To Star In Lance Armstrong Biopic

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StudioCanal is set to team up once again with Working Title, this time to finance and handle international sales on Stephen FrearsLance Armstrong biopic, which it will launch at AFM. The Paris-based studio will also handle distribution in France, U.K., Germany and Australia.

Based on the book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by Irish sports journalist David Walsh, the film is set to star Roscommon native Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) as Walsh and Ben Foster (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) as the disgraced seven-time Tour de France champion. Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons and Cesar-winning actor/director Guillaume Canet are on board for supporting roles. Shooting will start October 18 in France and the U.K. Continue reading

Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit Of Lance Armstrong By David Walsh

laOn October 22nd 2012 Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and he received a lifetime ban from cycling.  The International Cycling Union (UCI) accepted the findings of the 1,000 page United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report and issued sanctions banning Armstrong from the sport and stripping him of his seven tour titles.  One man knew Armstrong was a fraud from the start and here is his account titled Seven Deadly Sins.

For David Walsh, chief sports writer for the Sunday Times, the curtain came down on this saga on the day his son John would have turned thirty – October 22nd.  However, John died seventeen years before in a tragic bicycle accident.  He was aged only 12.  In his short life John inspired his father with his inquisitive nature.  John asked questions about things that others took for granted.  Walsh spent 13 years in pursuit of the truth about Lance Armstrong and he frames this quest as one that honours his son’s memory.  The crusade went on longer than John’s short life but Walsh’s determination never wavered.  From 1999 to now, he painstakingly sought evidence to build a case that started out as a gut instinct. With this book, Walsh has written his definitive take on the story that has dominated his life since Lance Armstrong crossed the finish line to win the 1999 Tour De France.  On that day, the Sunday Times correspondent kept his hands by his side refusing to applaud this fairytale comeback.  By then he was no longer a ‘fan with a typewriter’ he had seen cycling’s drug-fuelled dark side and he knew that Lance was its greatest incarnation.  So Walsh devoted himself to the task of debunking this sporting messiah.  By doing so he “put himself in Armstrong’s bad books, the library from which there is no escape.”

Walsh got this book to press with a similar speed to the Peleton descending from the peaks of the Alps during the Tour.  He has obviously had the bulk of it written for a number of years, at least in his head.  He gets across the story with an ease that speaks of a life immersed in the topic.  Walsh juggles a large array of characters throughout the book and is determined to acknowledge the major role they played in unveiling the deceit.  Over the years he has picked up various insiders who have put their professional lives in jeopardy to go on the record and tell their stories.  He manages to jump deftly between these characters without losing his reader, “Here’s Betsy Andreu.  She was on the inside.  Now she’s on my side.” Walsh witnessed the determination of those who had been close to Armstrong and their willingness to go on record with their accounts and risk their livelihoods, which were more entwined in cycling than Walsh’s, and this convinced him that he was doing right.  In order to repay them for the risks that they took and the slander that they endured he names and gives them a voice in this gracious account.

In the book we see Walsh acknowledge his beginnings as a naïve observer before morphing into the sceptic who is unwilling to ignore sports biggest pharmacist in the room – it’s a journey for the sportswriter who is determined to be more journalist than fan.   Initially his innocence is seen when he is unable to question his hero Sean Kelly after hearing pills rattle in his pocket moments before a race. In hindsight it was seminal; his first glimpse at the reality of professional cycling and the shedding of his blind fan-dom.  But he still wrote an unquestioning biography of his then hero and he failed to raise questions that that moment should have posed.  Walsh looks back on that with dismay seeing a fan unable to see the obvious.  Through watching his friend Paul Kimmage’s brief and unfilled stint as a pro cyclist he was awoken to the effect that drugs would have on riders who choose to ride clean.  Kimmage never stood a chance in a cheaters’ race.  The cycling careers ruined by a dirty peloton acted as a spur.  He began asking questions.  Guys like Kimmage and Christophe Bassons whose dreams never soared because of the prevalence of drugs in their sport buoyed Walsh for the long-haul fight.

During the book Walsh gives insights into his profession.  One is an anecdote of how he convinced his then editor Vincent Browne from the Sunday Tribune that Kimmage was a perfect fit for journalism.  Kimmage had been dictating his thoughts to Walsh who would compile a column from them but soon it became clear that Kimmage thought in fully formed pieces and once Walsh managed to impart this to Browne he then offered Kimmage a job the next time he touched down in Dublin.  Browne was responsible for giving many young sports writers a start as editor at the Tribune.

Walsh uses W.B. Yeats as a device to tell his story.  It mostly works but at times he succumbs to terribly simple clichés and that is something that should be eradicated from sports writing when the transition is made from column to book form.  It can be somewhat forgiven with deadlines looming but a definitive account of cycling’s biggest scandal should have been freed from this by an editor.   Twice Walsh mentions that “things had changed, changed utterly.”  I’d like to say that the ‘terrible beauty’ that Yeats ushered in with that line in the poem ‘Easter 1916’ was the birth of the most used sports writing cliché.  Perhaps the race to press hampered this as it’s the only complaint one can have about the Walsh’s writing.  He uses Yeats more aptly in rounding up the book as he sees his debt as naming and giving a voice to those that he has worked with over the thirteen years to uncover the scandal.  The closing pages allows them to give their final words on a huge chapter for each of them.  Armstrong has silenced them for years with his legal machine and bullying tactics but now they can tell their stories more freely as before these revelations Walsh was the only one listening.

Walsh’s account is not about Lance Armstrong, although he is the frame, instead it is about those that pursued him.  It is a look at sports journalism itself and the role that Walsh and his colleagues play in cycling’s drug scandal and drugs in sport in general.  It is about power and the questioning of it from a man who has done so for his whole career.  On October 22nd Lance Armstrong became “history, another ageing story of cheating and lying and doping and bullying and sport that wasn’t sport.”  For Walsh, this book is more personal than that – it’s for John.

Lance Was Right – It Was Never About The Bike

Epitome Of Greatness : Natural Born Cheat

Giants of sport cast shadows.  None have been bigger than those cast by Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods.  They are era-defining sportsmen.  Since the late nineties they have dominated the sporting landscape.  In a recent memoir by Tiger Woods’ coach Hank Haney, the golfer was painted as miserly because he never even offered the coach a ‘popsicle’ from his fridge.  In contrast Armstrong’s fridge door was always open for team-mates to dope.  Tiger has seen his off course exploits strewn all over the headlines since his brush with a fire hydrant outside his Florida home which demolished his squeaky clean façade.  But Tiger’s achievements on the course are undiminished.  No cloud hangs over his 14 major championships.  Armstrong’s legacy is now rubbished.

Lance Armstrong’s memoir depicting his redemptive struggle against cancer and his subsequent unprecedented seven Tour De France titles was called, ‘It’s Not About The Bike’.  Armstrong was right.  It was never about the bike.  It was about the most elaborate doping scandal in sporting history.  Armstrong was its leader according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) report which was released last night.

I was once a supporter of Armstrong.  Having read his books and followed events I bought into his propaganda.  It was naivety on my part; a want to believe in a neat sporting hero story, a miracle comeback from the de profundis of cancer to the peaks of the Alps.  When Armstrong announced that he would no longer seek to defend his name those who previously fought for him had to re-evaluate events.  Anyone who has followed his story knows that he never gives up.  So his resignation was a clear white flag, an indirect admission of guilt.  Armstrong still hides behind a proclaimed innocence clinging on somehow to the fact that he never failed a drug test on the tour.  Of course that is not entirely true as he did fail a test in 1999 but the UCI, cycling’s governing body, accepted a backdated medical prescription as evidence and the positive was struck from the record.

On the 24th of August Lance publicly withdrew his fight against the Usada.  Armstrong is a master tactician, he knew that this fight was too big even for him.  But expect a retort from the ‘Livestrong’ camp.  For the moment he seemed willing to accept the guilt that has come from the Usada report rather than fight it in public.  But the game is up for Lance.  His seven Tour De France titles, won from 1999 – 2005, were stripped from him and he was given a lifetime ban from the sport.  Fighting the charges would have led to a public trial where all the evidence would be fleshed out.  It seems that even by giving in he couldn’t prevent the public humiliation. However he knows that a sentimental few will not be swayed by this overwhelming proof.  Even that crowd is thinning.  Nike, his sponsors, have stood by him.  But the litmus test will come when he has to fulfill public appearances for them.  If he is booed Nike will face a public opinion dilemma.

Over the years the Sunday Times correspondent David Walsh fought a public battle against Armstrong in his search for the truth.  Walsh was the original whistleblower.  On the day Lance won his first Tour title in 1999 Walsh was a lone sceptic.  He wrote in his column, “This afternoon I will be keeping my arms by my side because I’m not sure this is something we should applaud.”  His questioning at the time was just an instinct from someone who was immersed in the tour.  Initially he lacked the evidence but he built his case.   Written off as a cynic he saw himself ostracized by his colleagues who had too much to lose by alienating Armstrong.  For instance, he was excluded from a press van by fellow journalists for fear that Lance would see him riding with them and they’d miss out on copy.  We have recently seen this type of behaviour, from the Catholic Church to the BBC, whereby the institution is protected rather than the behaviour condemned.  Armstrong’s legal machine fought a libel war quashing any allegations that surfaced.  He took action against Walsh and the Sunday Times and won a settlement.  Yesterday’s report is a vindication for Walsh who spent a decade rightfully questioning the biggest name in cycling.

The damning 1,000 page USADA report states that Armstrong not only doped but actively promoted the use of doping amongst his US Postal and Discovery teams.  The mantra went that cycling was a dirty sport and Armstrong’s team were going to be the best at those dark arts.  If racers didn’t comply they were excluded and there would be no place for them on the team.  Nobody is trying to say Armstrong acted alone in this.  He needed the active support and collusion of his Italian team doctor named Michelle Ferrari.  Ferrari ensured that Lance and his doping team were always ahead of the testing.  Extracts online show details of Armstrong depositing large sums into Ferrari’s account. At times they seemed to mock the authorities lack of sophistication in chasing them.

Cycling’s omerta has been lifted as eleven former team-mates of Armstrong gave sworn testimony against him and detailed their involvement in the conspiracy.  In return for this cooperation they have had their bans reduced. George Hincapie, who rode with Armstrong for his seven tour victories, admitted his role in the doping.  Those previously put off by Armstrong’s litigation monster will find voice.  With the publishing of this report we will no longer see evidence surface as though through a drip instead reams will appear buoyed by the mountain of evidence.

For many this report is just confirmation.  For those who asked, “where’s the evidence” it’s all here.  For a brave few it’s vindication.  One question remains, will Lance Armstrong ever come clean to the world and those loyal fans he has duped for so long?  But might there be a bigger question here.  Where is the rehabilitation for those who abuse performance enhancing drugs in sport?  Armstrong has no incentive to break his own silence, what would be his motivation for confessing?

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