MONDAY January 18 ...
• SMH: Match fixing in tennis: The various ways to fix a match The fix is in: Tennis is thought to be a popular target for match fixers because there are only two players involved and, given many matches are decided by a few crucial points, it is reasonably straightforward to “influence” the result. There are several ways to “fix” a whole match, the score or even particular points …
MONDAY January 11 ...
David Walsh ... heroic 13-year pursuit ...
What an absolute ripper of a book. This is the best thing I’ve read since the Flanman’s Narrow Road ... There are similarities ... Narrow Road ... is about nationalist-ego-driven cruelty. The Program is about one man’s ego-driven domination of cycling and the Tour de France ... at a terrible cost to anyone who got in his way.
As Walsh writes:
“I saw men and women ... who had parts of their lives and parts of their hearts tied up ... People who had lots to lose. People who grappled with their consciences every day and pushed themselves to do the right thing. As much as anything I have seen in a sporting arena, those struggles spoke of heroism and character ...”
The Program reads like a fictional murder mystery. Except it’s all so terribly, awfully real. After devouring it I reckon Big Bash League and a host of elite sport is very deeply suss* … well I suppose you only have to look at Russia and its Olympic athletes to ponder that ...
Walsh quotes Alex Butler, Sports Editor of The Sunday Times:
” ... I never warmed to Armstrong. Or his bullying. Or his people. Or his expensive lawyers. Or his chums in the media. The tame, fawning cycling correspondents. The L.A. Fan Club. Even the countless journalists who told me how great a job they thought The Sunday Times was doing while their own newspapers joined in the L.A. adulation. It made me cringe. And even worse, the journalists who poured scorn on Walsh’s investigations because they were too damned lazy to undertake their own. They know who they are ...
And he quotes his oldest friend, once elite rider, now journo Paul Kimmage who once reminded him of what Sam said in Lord of the Rings: ‘There’s some good in the world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.’ Paul takes off the gloves, fights bare-knuckled, but he’s always on the side of right. I asked him how he felt on that Monday [October 22, 2012 when the game was finally up for Lance Armstrong because of the tenacious work of Travis Tygart head of USADA (the United States Anti-Doping Agency)]:
The revelation that he was working with Ferrari (Italian Dr Michele Ferrari who oversaw the doping program) in 2001: That's it. He's fucked.
The publication of
L.A. Confidentiel (a book co-written by Walsh in French because French law seeks truth; English law is so much more restrictive) in 2004: That’s it. He’s fucked.
The L’Equipe investigation and that brilliant front page: Le Mensonge Armstrong in August 2005: That’s it. He’s fucked
The SCA trial in October 2005: That’s it. He’s fucked.
The Floyd Landis emails in Aapril 2010: That’s it. He’s fucked.
The news, three months later, that he was the subject of a federal investigation being led by Jeff Novitzky: That’s it. He’s fucked.
Thirteen years of false dawns and wasteful swearing.
... when the federal investigation was dropped ... that was not a good night. That’s it. Untouchable! I was absolutely disconsolate.
It was scant consolation that Travis Tygart picked up the baton. How would be succeed when Novitzky had failed? But succeed he most certainly did. He delivered the truth, turned fiction into fact and the icon into a pariah.
Touchable! Take a bow Eliot Ness.’
And there’s another journo mate, Charles Pelkey, worth quoting ...
’ ... I spent time thinking about the cynical exploitation of a disease suffered by millions around the globe, by a man (Armstrong) who used what could otherwise be deemed ‘good works’ as a shield to distract the inquisitive from raising questions about his flawed character ... I resented the self-aggrandising attitude displayed by the man ... the press corp came to call ‘Cancer Jesus’. ... for me 22 October’s UCI announcement was not a milestone. It merely served as the final nail in a coffin that should have been six feet under years before ...’
Walsh’s 13-year pursuit of Armstrong is so heroic. It is proper investigative journalism against all the odds including English Libel law (on which defamation law in Australia is based). Says Walsh:
‘And, of course, the British legal system actually worked against journalism and the whistleblowers in the Armstrong case. In a time when we hear much discussion of the vileness of the tabloid relationship with celebrities and the desirability of fostering a culture of investigative journalism, it is the libel laws that are sorely wanting.
English libel law seemed to state that asking questions implied that you had come to a conclusion. If we listed the questions which we felt Lance Armstrong needed to answer, then those questions in themselves implied that we didn’t consider Lance Armstrong to be unimpeachable, just as he was. The law protected Lance’s defence of first resort: he didn’t test positive. Beyond that any expression of doubt could libel him.
It was like trying to follow the logic of Alice in Wonderland.
He looked like a duck, walked like a duck, sounded like a duck, but until the laboratory actually came out and said that he was a duck, we weren’t supposed to even ask a question about His Duckness.
In France, when Lance got us into court with his attempt to make us insert a rebuttal into every copy of the book (L. A. Confidentiel), he made himself almost a figure of fun. The judge wanted to know why he he had declined, for almost a month, to reply to the questions raised in the book. They had been put to him again and again ...
In her decision Judge Bezio noted that the questions and allegations in the book ‘do not necessarily constitute defamation.’ In France no libel is committed if allegations are made in good faith, without malice, or if they turn out to be true ...
Our experience with the French legal system was a breath of fresh air compared to England ...
... Lance Armstrong can be smart and very decisive. He saw the system, he understood it and he played it beautifully. America was his principal market and his sponsors’ principal market. So he would have small intimate round-table press conferences with American journalists, who would be flattered to be texted a summons to come on over and sit down with Lance at the hotel in twenty minutes or so. The French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian media? Really, how many people in heartland America were going to translate and analyse that stuff? Euroweenies out to get Lance.
That left me, an English-speaking writer on a very credible paper. For all the talk and bluff in his years of prominence, The Sunday Times and I were the only legal battle Lance really took on and suggested he was prepared to take all the way.
And he did enough to claim a win but never wanted things to proceed to the spectacle of a trial and witnesses being called to testify under oath.
Legally he got the bragging rights, and with that came something more important: the gagging rights ...’
Walsh writes an Afterword which describes the Meedja’s sudden and massive about-face and details Armstrong’s famous interview with well-briefed and dispassionate Oprah Winfrey. ‘What was Lance thinking? That he would gull perhaps the smartest mind in American media?’
‘After the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report was published, the media world took ownership of the story that it had orphaned for so many years. Those of us who had kept that story alive for so long were just glad to relinguish custody.
The time for recriminations had long passed. We smiled of course when voices which had been struck mute for so many years suddenly chorused in joyful condemnation.
We wondered at the miracle of all the crippled fingers, which for a decade couldn’t type a question mark lest a question mark offend Lance.
Suddenly those fingers were clawed and grasping stones to hurl at Lance ...’
Ah the glorious hypocrisy of we, the Fourth Estate ...
Which raises questions about MSM in Tassie ...
Do you reckon mainstream meedja in Tassie is doing its proper job?
In my opinion there’s lots of boosterist superficial nonsense, and an obsession with superficiality and celebrity. In all three (conservative) newspapers, Mercury, Examiner and Advocate there is an aggressive ‘develop at all costs’ mentality, typified I guess by former Mercury MD Rex Gardner going into bat for a cable car. Mind you, Rexy had some great ideas in his mix ... notably wave power development (no-brainer) and developing cycleways (interesting isn’t it? The Greens have been harping on about this for decades ...): Talking Point: A mountain of ideas but no action
‘So what else can we do to make the state great? And let’s focus on how we can do things, as opposed to why we cannot or should not do things.
Here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing.
Why don’t we explore the benefits of wave energy around Tasmania’s shores? Renewable energy experts are in no doubt Australia could be a world leader, we’ve got some of the world’s best resource.
Western Australia has stolen the march on other states and a small wave energy farm off Garden Island, commissioned this year, is hooked to the grid and produces enough power for 1500-2000 homes.
WA experts claim the resource that hits their coast every day could power the state 10 times over.
What is the potential for Tasmania? Shouldn’t we be in on this form of renewable energy, given we’re a clear leader in hydro power?
Let’s quickly get aboard the electric car crusade and set Tasmania up as the electric car state of Australia and a leader in the world. As said in these Talking Point pages last week, we need a comprehensive fast-charging network across the state, which could be established for just a few million dollars.
MORE: PLUG OUR ISLAND IN TO ELECTRIC CARS
The state could encourage growth by waiving motor vehicle duty ($1600 for a $40,000 vehicle) for private owners of electric vehicles, and throw out juicy subsidies to hire car companies and corporate fleets.
Let’s not stop at cars – electric bicycles are clean, swift and safe. Hand subsidies to parents (free helmets and six months free charging) to convert their families across.
Tasmania could become a bicycle-friendly city – but it will require courage from councils.
Talking of bicycles, let’s bite the bullet and seriously turn greater Hobart in to one of the world’s great bicycle-friendly cities.
We could stop fiddling about the edges and seriously create safe bicycle corridors through the city and suburbs, with sensible links to the foreshore, CBD, school zones and retail precincts.
Mixing bike and traffic lanes costs a lot and doesn’t work (Sandy Bay Rd is an example). Let’s do it properly.
Courage from councils will be required, but we won’t have to reinvent the wheel, just borrow great ideas from bicycle cities around the world and tailor them for our city.
Bicycle corridors across the state, particularly north-south along railway easements and quiet country roads, would be a major boost to national and international tourism. The cycling market globally is huge. The Spirit of Tasmania ferries could be full of cyclists and their space-saving machines.
Australia has great aquariums, but why not establish the nation’s most spectacular aquarium as the centrepiece of Macquarie Point. It is screaming out for a functional focal point and would build on our marine and Antractic brand.
But the lowest hanging fruit is Mt Wellington and the surrounding Wellington State Park. A cable car is an essential starting point and a state government project, not one to be lost in the mire at municipal level.
Our State Government should take over the project, stare down the noisy minority, hear the silent majority, and throw it out to international tender with very specific environmental guidelines.
Now to investigative journalism. Matt Smith does a bit of low-hanging Public Service fruit ... but investigative journalism, in my opinion, is in pretty dire straits ... other than Tasmanian Times’ Bob Burton and The Australian’s Matthew Denholm. The only problem for them is neither is mainstream and one (Denholm) lurks behind Rupert’s paywall and is therefore inaccessible to the Great Unwashed.
Why were these Bob Burton stories never followed - as far as I have been able to ascertain - by MSM?:
And I must not forget Martyn Goddard’s The Pathology scare campaign
I can’t give you Matty’s top stories ... they are behind Rupey’s Paywall and Rupe is wealthy enough for me not to give him another cent ... Besides to me The Oz is right-wing dead-tree meedja still mourning the loss of its champion Tony Abbott.
*Think about it. Is it a coincidence that Hobart Hurricanes have succumbed sequentially to Melbourne Renegades, then last Wednesday night to Melbourne Stars. Then last night to Perth Scorchers. Follow the money ... do you reckon it’d be better for a jam-packed 100,000-fans-final at the MCG ... or a tiny fraction of that at Blundstone Arena (or elsewhere) ... ?
Already the big boys have a history of beating down the door ... resorting to that age-old ploy of legal threat. Hurricanes captain Tim Paine accused the Stars of having a “never-ending salary cap” and playing by a different set of rules in BBL03 (2013–14).
The slur prompted Stars chairman Eddie McGuire to threaten legal action and forced Paine to apologise ... A typical response in my humble view! Who can ever forget then-Australian Editor-in-Chief Chris Mitchell’s threat of legal action against Julie Posetti ( HERE ). Journos, in my view, should never threaten legal action because we are forever putting people in the stocks and hurling rotten fruit at them.
BBL is mass marketing glitz and glamour gone mad. And it is thoroughly backed by its cheerleaders in the Meedja (particularly News Ltd’s fascination with glamour and celebrity.) I could not help but be reminded of how few journos really question ... They are barrackers for the superficial; reminding me of David Walsh’s experience in The Program …
• Program, the movie ... The book has been turned into a movie (natch). It’s good - 3-4 Stars - but it isn’t a patch on the book; very difficult to cram 13 years of non-stop action into a couple of hours I guess …
• Garry Stannus, in Comments: I hope readers won’t too much mind me stepping back into the Armstrong past, I’m recalling an ‘on-court TT encounter’ between Rick ‘Pilko’ Pilkington and myself. It went just about five sets and right to the end as Armstrong’s ‘defense attorney’ I was sure we’d prevail. Rick was just as sure that Armstrong was a cheat. When Armstrong admitted his guilt on Oprah Winfrey the matter was settled decisively once and for all in Rick’s favour …
Nic Tomlin in Comments: As a keen cyclist and having suffered the same cancer as Lance - I drew great inspiration from his remarkable achievements. The bombshell of this scandal still leaves me with deep seated suspicion knowing how much ‘people’ will cheat to ‘win’. How could someone deceive the whole world for so long, under such intense scrutiny? The fact that the anti-doping system / UCI / governing bodies failed to catch Lance earlier remains largely unaddressed. The situation in Tasmania is not dissimilar. We have governing bodies (Integrity Commission, Ombudsman etc.), who openly admit ‘powerful influences’ are at play seemingly largely unchecked. I mean, the Integ Commission’s ‘damning’ report into Public Service gifts/benefits is laughable. The fact is, in a small island community, the risks of exposing any unwelcome ‘truth’ is far higher than in larger communities - unless you are a self-sufficient and highly robust individual (like David Walsh I guess) … Yes Simon. My concern is about how such individuals can fly in the face of authorities for so long. In most cases, it’s because big money is involved and exposure will cause ‘losses’. The sport of cycling did very well with a headline grabbing Armstrong, as did the sponsors and media. Nobody stood to gain much from his exposure, so no-one really wanted to believe it (including myself).