Des Kelly: Really, what are these people who support Armstrong on
23:27 GMT, 12 October 2012
So who else knew There were too many people involved; too many mouths open and too much money was in play for this to remain a genuine secret for so long.
There must have been people in positions of power within the sport who had knowledge of what Lance Armstrong was up to long before this damning dossier was released.
Dragging the proof into the public domain was a difficult task, but only because it was hampered by what has all the appearances of an institutional cover-up, a co-ordinated conspiracy and the propagation of a huge lie that extends way beyond the disgraced rider’s circle of team-mates.
Disgraced: Lance Armstrong led 'the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme'
Of course people knew. Armstrong’s team used to sing a song about the drug use, for heaven’s sake. His fellow rider at the US Postal Service team, David Zabriskie, revealed how he would adapt the words to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze when they were in meetings or on the bus.
‘EPO all in my veins,
Lately things just don’t seem the same.
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why,
’Scuse me while I pass this guy.’
The bigger joke is that cycling tried to pretend the scandal wasn’t happening, or did they think it was too big a risk to bring Armstrong down
It is certainly difficult not to laugh at the idea that the Union Cycliste Internationale governing body once accepted 78,000 from Armstrong for the ‘development of drug-testing equipment’. Seriously, what were these people on Were they stupid
There were others prepared to ignore the obvious. After the coruscating United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Armstrong landed with an almighty thud, his key sponsor rushed out a statement in less time than it would have taken for the rider to empty a syringe into a vein.
It said: ‘Nike continues to support Lance.’
That’s right. Despite the extraordinary amount of evidence, despite the fact that former team-mates and colleagues provided more than 1,000 pages of detail on his doping, Armstrong’s commercial backers were still there, putting an arm around his shoulder.
In doing so, they gave a whole new meaning to their company’s advertising slogan: ‘Just Do It’.
This is how sport tries to protect itself, with shrugs, tacit acceptance, blanket denials and intimidation.
The head of USADA, Travis Tygart, received three death threats during the Armstrong probe, all currently being investigated by the FBI.
Two journalists at the vanguard of
exposing the culture of doping in cycling, and Armstrong in particular,
have been chased to court and harassed.
In one legal action, UCI president Pat
McQuaid and ‘honorary president’ Hein Verbruggen are seeking full-page
apologies from newspapers in Britain, France and Switzerland.
We got you: Nike, one of Armstrong's main sponsors released a statement confirming their support
This is the same Verbruggen, a current International Olympic Committee member, who said in May 2011: ‘Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never.’
The UCI should be issuing full-page apologies, not asking for them. They should be throwing open the doors and hidden files, not silencing their critics.
Were Armstrong’s ploys to avoid out-of-competition testing ignored Was he tipped off beforehand about testers’ visits
There is an oft-quoted statistic that Armstrong passed 500 tests. In fact, he was asked for blood on around 260 occasions — and it is known he returned positive results on more than one occasion. But the rider, his team and the authorities ‘explained’ them away at the time.
Armstrong is finished now. His reputation is done. But the UCI must be called to account, too.
How did the US agency gather such a comprehensive mass of evidence when the supposed governing body could not — or would not
There are two obvious views. The UCI
knew what was happening and yet failed to act. Or they did not know and
so they are incompetent. Either way, they must be considered unfit for
purpose and those in charge should have already handed in their
Was Armstrong’s drug-taking vastly
different to most of the leading riders of his generation Yes, he
survived seemingly terminal cancer and then set about raising an
extraordinary amount of money to help fellow sufferers.
The people his foundation has helped will not care, but that cannot exonerate his behaviour in this scandal.
What is peculiar is the idea that this
has all come as a shock inside cycling. People outside the sport have a
right to be amazed, but Armstrong’s activities became common knowledge
in the peloton.
In denial: UCI president Pat McQuaid and ‘honorary president’ Hein Verbruggen are seeking full-page apologies from newspapers in Britain, France and Switzerland
Yet everyone is talking about how the sport is ‘moving on’ and ‘looking forward, not back’. To listen to Team Sky chief David Brailsford, the man who boasted his outfit would be scrupulously clean and use a zero-tolerance policy on drugs, this was all a blinding revelation to him.
‘The more you read, the more the jaw drops,’ he said. ‘Armstrong was one of the first cyclists that maybe transcended the sport. It was an amazing thing, so to now find out what was behind it is disappointing.’
Brailsford says he only found out now.
But Canadian Michael Barry was at Team Sky. The same Barry that used to ride alongside Armstrong. The same Barry was named in the USADA report confessing to years of EPO and testosterone use within Armstrong’s team.
Barry claims he stopped doping in
2006, before he joined Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky in 2009. But since
he lied beforehand it’s up to you whether you believe him now.
Coincidentally, one month before the damning USADA report was issued,
Barry retired from Team Sky.
At least Britain’s Tour de France
champion, Wiggins, admitted that, while he was shocked by the scale of
evidence, he was not by the facts themselves. ‘I’m not surprised by it —
I had a good idea what is going on,’ he said.
It’s all a bit of a puzzle, isn’t it
Wiggins says he knew what Armstrong was up to. Ex- team-mate Barry
certainly knew. Brailsford says otherwise and insists that Barry lied to
him about past doping. Someone’s certainly gullible. As long as it’s
not you or me.
The Team Sky website was still
carrying an official statement about Barry’s retirement on Thursday,
saying: ‘He was a founding member of Team Sky when he signed at the end
of 2009, and over the last three seasons has set an example to the rest
of the squad with his positive attitude, unwavering commitment to the
cause, and wealth of cycling knowledge.’
Seventh heaven: Armstrong was considered one of the greatest sportsmen of his generation
There is no doubting his knowledge, but we might argue about the wisdom of using the word ‘positive’ in the circumstances.
Barry himself added: ‘Through my 14-year professional career I’ve been fortunate to race with many of the top teams. From my first coaches and club-mates, to Dave Brailsford and my Team Sky team-mates, I’ve had the opportunity to race and learn from many of the best.’
Ah yes. He learned a lot. He learned how to cheat. The page has disappeared now. This is all very uncomfortable for Sky and Brailsford. As was the recently terminated association with Dr Geert Leinders, a man with a murky past in cycling.
But history is being wiped away. We’re all ‘moving forward’, apparently. Yes, it’s better now. There’s nothing to see here any more, so move along. Can we believe that I think Hendrix had it right without any need to change his lyrics.
‘Purple haze all in my eyes
Don’t know if it’s day or night
You’ve got me blowin’, blowin’ my mind,
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time’
Thou shalt not upset the FA
The Football Association plans to issue players with a ‘code of
conduct’. You will know this, since I believe it has already been on the
back pages at least three times this year.
Whenever anything awkward or untoward happens in the international camp,
someone at the FA mentions that football’s commandments will be brought
down from Mount Bernstein soon, as if that is going to make everything
How long does it take to tell players not to behave like, to coin a
phrase, ‘a bunch of t***s’ Monks in medieval times produced illuminated
manuscripts faster than this list of dos and don’ts . . .
Toe the line: Ashley Cole was the latest England player to land himself hot water with football authorities
Luckily, I have obtained an early leaked copy. It says:
Do not sleep with a team-mate’s partner or wife
Do not racially abuse another player
Do not sell on any perks you may receive as a result of your international call-up
Do not park in any disabled parking bay
Do not get drunk or abusive in public
The document is still being drafted, but the working title is ‘The Book of John’. I can’t think why.
Wronga: Newcastle's new sponsorship deal hasn't gone done well with the supporters
Money talks.. and turns the air blue
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew believes the sponsorship money
provided by the company dubbed a legal loan shark, Wonga.com, can help
push the club into the top four. He intends to motivate the players by
demanding they give 4,214 per cent.
Ash, he's a top gun
Joe Hart offered up a ringing endorsement of Ashley Cole this week.
‘He was very welcoming to me and I’ve noticed he’s like that with a lot
of the young lads,’ said the England goalkeeper. ‘That’s the beauty of
him,’ he added.
Yes, Cole’s traditional ‘hello’ to youngsters is the stuff of legend. A
shot with an air rifle into the thigh of an intern at the training
ground makes them feel right at home.
Catch me if you can
I'll be part of a BBC 5 Live Fighting Talk special in front of a
sell-out crowd at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield at 11am on Saturday.
Afterwards, I will be embarrassing myself even more as Fighting Talk
faces the 606 team in a charity five-a-side match for BBC Children in
Need. If I’m still alive, The Press Pass is on talkSPORT on Sunday at