Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

Sharks being circled? What’s next, Bulldogs’ heels being nipped?

In what is an irony spotter’s dream, everyone in the rugby league community is now circling the Sharks.

While it was previously the domain of the finned, cartilege-laden predator to swarm around its prey, circling them with demonic intent before rudely removing a digit or limb from their chosen victim, nature has found a way to turn it around on them this time. That’s right, finally the shark has become the hunted.

In a further sprinkling of irony, all this turning around of nature has been achieved through the most unnatural of means: using drugs to improve on nature. Confusing, isn’t it?

Shark victims and prospective shark victims aside, not many can be all too pleased by this news of Sharks being hunted, as it confirms the presence and widespread use of illegal drugs in the NRL. Not only have fourteen players been implicated, but it came to light on Fox Sports today that they’ve even been offered a year extra on their contract plus full pay so they don’t sue the club.

What does that tell us? Are the club trying to pay off players for something that was ostensibly the club’s fault? Did the Sharkies, knowingly and willingly, flaunt the drug code to gain an unfair advantage? I’m sure there are a number of reasons why you would offer your players those sort of incentives not to sue you. But you know what, for all those reasons I suppose that there are, I can’t think of any other myself. Maybe you can give me another explanation? Try the comments section below if you have any bright ideas.

All I know is that it’s a really bad look. It really looks like the club has given their players this stuff willingly. Two, three, four players may have just been a coincidence. But 14? 14 players is a whole starting team. And at one club. The chances of this being a coincidence are dropping by the minute.

A blurred photo... Looks suspicious, doesn't it? Is it a dirty, roided up footballer taking drugs? Or is it a man walking in a train station? You decide

A blurred photo… Looks suspicious, doesn’t it? Is it a dirty, roided up footballer taking drugs? Or is it a man walking in a train station? You decide


But let’s not pretend it’s just the club at fault here. A professional athlete has a responsibility for what he puts in his body. It’s his livelihood, and he can’t blindly subject himself to professional advice like cyclists apparently did all through the nineties and naughties. Tyler Hamilton was just as doped as Lance Armstrong. They both cheated; they both knew it was wrong. Whether Lance tried to force Tyler into it or not, Tyler still shouldn’t have doped. Same goes with the Sharkies. If something looks like dead rat, smells like dead rat, then it’s probably a dead rat. Any my dad always told me not to eat dead rat because it ain’t no crème brûlée.

I’m sure more than a few of you have received a text message or two from you mates with some rumours that are swirling around the other clubs as well. The rumours go that the Sharkies are merely the first to fall, and that major clubs are going to fall in the coming months, and with serious penalties and consequences. But these are just rumours, and they’re bound to proliferate in times like this. You can’t help but feel though that even when this Sharks matter is cleared up, there’s still a long way to go for ASADA. They’re not done yet.

Another interesting questions revolves around what the banned players are going to do while they’re cooling their heels on the sideline. What’s their media performance going to be like? Are we going to be told the hows, whys, wheres and whats, just like we were with Lance? I’m not going to be so bold to say that the public deserve to know, but realistically the public probably deserve to know. If one of Cronulla’s biggest players, the hero of kids who support the team, happened to take drugs, I don’t think putting a gag on him would be the right thing to do.

The players who took drugs have to be part of the solution.

All this is of course hypothetical, but it looks like it’s very much becoming a reality, and fast.

It’s also not a great look for all those folks who attempted to bluff ASADA into not investigating by thinking they’d called their bluff. Remember, an absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. There’s substance behind this investigation. Get used to it.

And if you’re a drug cheat, you might want to get used to being on the bench, because you’ll most likely have at least six months to practice it.

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For those of you who believed in fairytales

I promised myself at the very beginning of this thing with Lance Armstrong that when Phil Liggett goes I go.

This is for a few reasons. First of all is the obvious one: Phil Liggett seems like just about the best bloke in history and should probably be listened to whenever he speaks he speaks about cycling, particularly when he speaks of the soul of the sport. Second of all the guy’s been watching Lance, and all the others, for years, and had a special kind of respect for him. He was reluctant to admit Lance did it, probably because he didn’t want to believe he had done it. I felt the same way.

The relationship between a commentator and an athlete is a funny one, and in the case of the Liggett-Armstrong relationship, a long one. There’s always an element of man-crush about it, but Liggett is a legend of the sport despite never having competed. He’s well thought of by those who listen.

He is referred to as ‘The voice of cycling.’ If this man is the voice, then surely he speaks from the heart of the sport. I wouldn’t say Phil speaks from the head. Phil is too pure to speak from the head. The head of the metaphorical cycling man is too corrupt.  The brains of the sport are in too deep to speak as Phil did.

So when Liggett said that he’s off the Lance-Wagon, I bailed too.

Let me reiterate, though, that I am reluctant to jump. Not because I don’t think he’s guilty. Not because what he did wasn’t wrong. The fact is it was so very wrong, and Lance knew it. I just wish he hadn’t.

In his speech after he won the 2005 Tour de France he criticised people who criticised him, saying they didn’t believe in miracles and were poorer for it.

The fact is that Lance Armstrong would have been the best thing to ever happen to cycling if he was clean. The fact that he cheated doesn’t vindicate anyone, particularly journalists with 20-20 hindsight. In some ways it only makes us poorer for having no one to believe in.

He was the man who won seven tours in a row, clean. He beat the cheats in their own backyard. He rose to the top and stayed there for longer than anyone else in the history of the sport. He dominated what I consider to be the hardest sporting event on the planet. He was the greatest this gruelling sport had ever seen, and there was daylight to second place. It was a real life miracle.

Or a fairytale.

It turns out that it was too much to ask for someone to beat the cheats without cheating himself. In no way am I justifying what he did by saying that he was only doing what everyone else did. I am simply saying that he was the man who we all thought could. I think sadness is just as appropriate a response as outrage.

The USADA report paints Lance as a bully; a ruthless individualist who will do anything to attain personal profit and glory. He manipulated and bullied the media into not reporting or retracting stories accusing him of doping. He bullied those who spoke out against him, and bullied his teammates into cooperating with the team doping policy.

He was the leader of the most sophisticated doping scheme in cycling history. He’s to blame for it all.

I didn’t know any of this was true before the USADA report. Then again, I didn’t realise Tiger Woods was a rampant sex maniac before his fall from grace in 2009. I think that, like Tiger, this image will be adjusted over time.

Like the reports of Tiger’s infidelity, I think the depiction of Lance as a bully who only wants what is good for himself will slowly recede in severity as his account is released and time runs its anger-cooling course.

People will begin to remember his charity work, which undoubtedly is a great thing that he has done for humanity, not just cycling, and many would argue is his greatest achievement (it certainly is now). Whether it was founded and nurtured under false pretences, and whether the means justify the end is certainly another point to debate, and may lead to another media storm. Another storm that will eventually rain itself out.

It may even come to pass, like it did with the Tiger, that people will actually start wishing him well again, and applaud him for his success in other ventures.

People will start to forgive him eventually.

The obvious question that really burns in all this is why has Lance refused to say anything? He could be writing his admission book, which will no doubt sell a load of copies and add fuel to the accusations of him being a money-hungry narcissist. He may be preparing some sort of statement that will not implicate him in anything legal, but admits his guilt. Who knows?

There have been some journalists (journalists I wasn’t even aware were cycling journalists, until now conveniently) who have said that his time has passed. It is too late to respond now, they say.

Why is that? Where is the arbitrary line that you drew that denotes the precise point when it was too late for an accused man to stand up and respond to these very serious allegations about the very fabric of his being; his life’s work? Or is it just because he didn’t fit in with your paper’s news values that his time has passed?

Take all the time you need Lance, but please direct your words toward the Phil Liggetts more than anyone else; those to whom you promised a miracle, and delivered this.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair