7:00am Wednesday 23rd January 2013
By James Hoxey
News that Lance Armstrong has finally come clean and made the world's least anticipated revelation that he did indeed take performance enhancing drugs is nothing more than a shameless attempt to gloss over the facts.
Oprah Winfrey was tasked with coaxing some potentially interesting information out of him in the vain attempt to shed some light on what is reported to be the most sophisticated example of drug cheating the sport has ever seen.
Having not seen the 90 minute interview I cannot really pass any judgement on whether he sets the record straight with regards to what actually happened- but does it really matter?
The facts remain the same, he took drugs and lied about it, and worse still, portrayed the image of an all-American superhero.
And now the integrity of all those charitable organisations associated with the disgraced former star have been called into question - even his cancer charity Livestrong.
But as alarming as it may sound, when it comes to corruption in sport Armstrong is a mere novice.
His rise to the summit of cycling and subsequent domination of the sport for over a decade is impressive (not quite as impressive as his dedication to cheating, but impressive none-the-less). But it’s all childs play compared to some of the world's big hitters in the world of brazen cheating.
Take for instance the entire Italian Serie A league. Over the years it has become easier to count the teams that haven’t been involved in some form of match fixing or related scandal than to focus on the ones that have.
It’s been a long accepted fact that football titles in Italy are simply auctioned to the highest bidder and the relationship that orgainsed crime plays in the day to day running of clubs is horrifying.
The biggest shock of all was that it took until 2006 for the authorites to join any of the planet-sized dots together and do something about it.
Juventus paid the price after police managed to record their general manager Luciano Moggi 'speaking' to officials to ensure pro-Juve referees officated the Old Lady.
The club were relegated to Serie B and stripped of their last 2 titles.
AC Milan and Fiorentina also suffered a points deduction, but it has done nothing to reduce the appeal of Italian football or indeed rid the nation of the niggling suspicion that their leagues are rotten.
If only match fixing were all the Columbian football association had to worry about.
Sadly,that's the least of their problems as they fight a daily war against the drug cartels that continue to dominate any profession in the country where money can be made.
In 1994 Andres Escobar proudly wore the yellow jersey of Columbia as he walked out in front of tens of thousdands of fans in a crucial World Cup game against the USA.
The South American side, who had not enjoyed the best of summer outings - were overwhelming favourites to beat their North American counterparts.
Unfortunately they lost 2-1 and were knocked out.
Worse still, Escobar who had been a rock at the heart of the Columbian defence, scored an own goal that proved to be the winner for fierce rivals the USA.
It would be the last game of football he ever played.
One month before he was due to be married and just days after his own goal, he was gunned down in a car park by drug dealers working for the cartels.
As the shots were fired, the killers remarked- "Thanks for the own goal."
Years later, a former team-mate of Escobar's, Freddie Rincon, said in an interview: "Top players are immediately sold to European clubs, purely to line owners’ pockets." He should know, he spent a year at Napoli.
But closer to home is the rather peculiar tale of Polish football and the widespread allegations of corruption in their top flight league.
In the years building up to Euro 2012, the tournament match fixing alleagtions were rife throughout the country, with 117 people including referees, coaches, players and officials charged with related offences.
A total of 29 clubs were implicated, 7 of which were demoted from the Polish top flight including 4 time champions Widzew LodzI. In 2008 the entire giverning body of the Polish Football Federation stood down as a result of the scandal.
You see, it’s not just cycling that needs to clean its act up. In fact, under a harsh spotlight the sport has done more than practically any other to clean its act up. this was the last thing it needed after all the hard work.
So, Mr Armstrong, you are treading water with some of the world's least classy crooks, hell bent on lining their pockets at all costs.
The difference being, all of the aforementioned criminals got to keep their ill-gained loot. Lance Armstrong will not see the outside of a court house this side of 2020, and when a glimmer of light does break through the clouds and shine on his chiselled features he will be at least $12 million worse off as a result of a costly legal battle with his former sponsors.
You don’t need drugs to win a Tour de France, Lance. You need superhuman dedication and a smashing set of sideburns. Bradley, show him how it's done. . .the right way.
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