Yesterday, David O’Sullivan, the Talk Radio 702 host and my old mate, went further than he thought he would. He went about 60km further than he thought he could go. The Momentum 94.7 Cycle Tour should have ended somewhere on Jan Smuts for him, either at the top beside the Dunkeld West centre, or, perhaps more appropriately, down at the bottom at the Bushveld Pub and Diner, a short uphill sprint from where he lives.
But it did not. It went on and on and on. It went to the finish of the 90-odd kilometres of the Cycle Challenge on a hot, sultry Johannesburg day. It went past where he had ever taken his body before, through cramps and tired legs, through doubt and pain to the point of joy and satisfaction that cycling finds for all those who succumb to its wiles. In cycling the pain never goes away, the old saying goes, you only get faster.
Forgiveness is thin on the ground for Lance Armstrong in Johannesburg this week. Sorry was the hardest word for the Texan to say, and so it is proving for those he could not bring himself to say sorry to. Forgiveness in the form of a lesser sentence would be “close to a miracle” for a man whose case was “done and dusted” as far as the World Anti-Doping Agency were concerned.
Armstrong has gone on a publicity and charm offensive in the last few weeks, offering anyone who will take his call a chance to interview him. Cyclingnews.com ran a four-part interview with him, which was an important read and yet seemed to be lacking in a few specific details. Those details are the ones that could land Armstrong in a little more strife with the lawsuits he is facing. Shane Stokes of Velonation.com turned Armstrong down, saying he had been approached by a third party who knew Armstrong and who said he could set up and interview. Stokes said he would only talk to Armstrong if he could ask him about “everything, including the UCI and suppliers, etc” and wasn’t interested in being used.
Journalist and author William Fotheringham wrote in the Guardian this week that it “smacks of a media offensive. Along with the BBC and cyclingnews.com and the Velonation website, I know of several other journalists who have had contact with him. And that’s just the known knowns. It seems fair to assume that there must be a few unknown unknowns out there too.”
Yet the draw of the Armstrong story is still strong, even if it has been turned upside down, and Armstong has been able to complain about the way he is being treated, a refrain taken up by those who are still blinded by the tale of a man who came back from cancer to win the toughest race in the world. Armstrong is now seemingly miffed that others are benefitting from his story, which is a good PR line to take if quite incredibly disingenuous. All who doped in the EPO era are guilty of cheating, and no matter how many confess, there is still the sense that others are still living the lie. Armstrong is guilty of telling only part of the truth, the part that will see him hold on to the vast fortune he earned through cheating and lying. A hard luck story from an athlete worth in the region of R1.2-billion rings as hollow as an empty pharmacy.
Yesterday morning the UCI and Wada agreed to terms for an independent commission into doping in the sport, taking in both the past and the present. Armstrong has been urged to speak to the UCI, but the American believes going back into the past will not serve the sport of cycling well. He is wrong. It will only not serve him well.
*Kevin McCallum on Wednesday won the SAB Media Awards sports columnist of the year and the sports blogger of the year categories. McCallum has been with Independent Newspapers for 18 years. “Kevin McCallum is the premier sports journalist of his time and he has consistently brought honour to (the group) through his writing. His recognition in these categories is long overdue and we are very grateful that the industry is seeing him in the same light that we have seen him for so long,” said The Star deputy editor Kevin Ritchie.
Should England win the Ashes, despite the best efforts of the primped, cut, botoxed, manscaped and whitened former cricketer formerly known as Shane Warne, then I will be the first in the queue to order the book on their diet for the Ashes. It is, currently, a 70-page list of recipes, accompanied by pictures and instructions, sent by the England team management to the grounds and hotels they will be staying at on tour as a requirement for the team’s dietary needs.
Naturally, the Australian media, to whom this was leaked, leapt on it eagerly as some of them played their not unsubstantial part in trying to unsettle touring opposition. It has become an accepted practice by visiting international teams to Australia to expect to be given short shrift in the newspapers, radio, television and online.
In the Observer this week, Barbara Ellen, put into words what many have believed for some time. After being restyled by his fiance, Liz Hurley, Shane Warne “ looked like a complete tit”. This is, I presume, much worst than just looking like a right tit or, considering his recent trash talking, a left tit. A tit that has been left out of Australian cricket and does not like it one little bit.
For, as Ellen wrote on Sunday, “A cricketing uber-bloke, Shane was spirited away into the dark castle of Liz Hurley, to emerge resembling a Ken doll dipped in golden syrup. La Hurley beamed, while the world recoiled at Warne's newly brightened teeth, highlighted hair, Ronseal-hued skin tone, and hints of (thankfully undisclosed) ‘man-scaping’.”
You would not have missed Warne having a go at England and Australia this week. He wouldn’t let you miss it. He said Joe Root should drop down the order because Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson would hurt him with the new ball in Brisbane and that if England didn’t, “They could be crucifying him." England did just that, promoting Michael Carberry, Warne’s former Hampshire teammate to open in Perth. Carberry promptly scored an unbeaten 153, and thanked Warne for the role he played in getting him into Test cricket.
Warne also said Alastair Cook was an unimaginative captain, which Cook noted was the same thing Warne had said when England beat Australia in England not so long ago. Warne accused Ricky Ponting of being “jealous” of Michael Clarke after Punter had criticised Pup in his autobiography. “I've got nothing mean to say, or a bad word about Ricky,” said Warne before saying something nasty. “I know he beats himself up mercilessly about being the only captain ever in Australian history to lose three Ashes series. And I know he regrets and beats himself up about the fact that he – like Nasser Hussain – is the brunt of jokes whenever someone puts the opposition in, after that horrific decision at Edgbaston in 2005. So I don’t particularly want to be mean about Ricky because he’s a good guy and tried to do the best he could.”
In January, Warne got stuck into Australian cricket in general, before releasing his manifesto for the overhaul of Cricket Australia the Baggy Greens, which consisted, mainly it seems, of putting his old mates into the big jobs of the sport. Malcolm Conn, the cricket writer of the Telegraph group in Australia, wrote then that it was strange for Warne to go on about “responsibility” in cricket, particularly as he had just been through two disciplinaries in the Big Bash League. “…it appears that Australia’s greatest living former great is inhabiting his usual parallel universe, playing his ‘poor me’ CDs and sipping on sour grapes,” wrote Conn. In other words, acting like a complete tit.
On an August night in 2006, a letter was pushed under the Colombo hotel door of Mark Boucher. It was addressed to: “Mr M Boucher, SA Cricket captain.”
“It was from one of the Tamil Tiger leaders,” recalls Boucher in his book, Bouch: Through My Eyes. “The letter stated they had no desire to hurt us and that we had nothing to do with their war. But he said that a bombing campaign was underway in Colombo and that it would be very unfortunate if we were affected. He said they could make no promises or guarantees for our safety and recommended we leave the country as soon as possible.”