Watching France TV 2 last night, and the interview with Michel Drucker, reminds one that not all of the French people, nor its media icons, are rabid Anti-Lance Armstrong anti-fans... and we'll post more about that later this week... but a sufficient remark would include the pleasure at watching expressions of gratitude for what Lance did for the WORLD of cycling... whose epicenter is the Tour de France (Saturday!)
Is le Président de la République de la France, Nicolas Sarkozy, Lance Armstrong's “Biggest (ahem) fan” in France?
Reading the latest issue of the French satiric weekly Le Canard Enchaîné (issue N° 4626; June 24, 2009: NB: Le Canard has no comparable web-site to its eight-page weekly print edition, so links are not available)), on the eve of the 2009 Tour de France (which starts on Saturday, 4 July 2009, from Monaco), one finds additional data (or pseudo–facts) and opinions regarding the tragi–comic story featuring Lance Armstrong, the French media and seven Tours de France.
Lance offered comments earlier this year, indicating some trepidation as to any reactions from French cycling fans, while he returned to the routes of le Tour. He probably was much more aware than the average international cycling fan, of the rancid flavours added to his legacy, by most of the French press, and its ability to weave insinuations and innuendos into perfect insinuendo, regarding historic events that emanated from the French National Laboratoire: LNDD, in 2005. Insinuendos that can only serve to dissimulate known, unproven rumours as anti–Lance–in–France propaganda. Should Lance worry? We think not, at WADAwatch.
Our enjoyment of the journal Le Canard Enchaîné, for its weekly assortment of acerbic denunciations of French governmental shenanigans, allows us to wonder from which quarter, by whose 'connections', it came to decide in favour of publishing a 'Part Deux' to its earlier article, which WADAwatch covered in February, denouncing a supposed repression of the work of Damion Ressiot of L'Equipe. We believe that the LCE is much more trustworthy, when not focused on sport.
SIDEBAR: President Sarkozy announced on Wednesday, his long–anticipated reshuffling of his Ministerial cabinet posts. One very interesting development, is to have named Rama Yade, his outstanding Human Rights Minister under Bernard Kouchner (A 'post' that was suppressed, the Human Rights topic reverting back into Kouchner's domain as Foreign Minister) to replace Bernard Laporte, whose two year stint as Sports Minister was most noteworthy for (?)... nothing at all.
In brief review, the February article penned by Jérôme Canard 'told' French readers that the group Amaury Editions, which owns both the Amaury Sport Organization (organizers of le Tour, also the Paris–Dakar rally and many other lucrative sports events), as well as the French daily sporting journal L'Equipe (and daily paper Le Parisien), had 'stifled' Ressiot et al on the sulphurous subject of doping in cycling. Following the links (above) will reacquaint our readers with the situation as of February; other articles from our sister blog crystelZENmud (in right–hand column) may offer further insights.
Coming back to this week's story: Le Canard Enchaîné (hereafter 'LCE') describes Sarkozy's admiration and warnings about Armstrong (his remarkable comeback and unprecedented streak of seven victories; if related to 'pills' (sic), 'en garde!'...), as published in an article in L'Equipe over two years ago (March 2007). The quotations from Sarkozy end with a curious viewpoint by Monsieur le président (Ww translation):
“But wait, if there is a pill, it must be given to me! Myself, I'm combating 'the doping', however one cannot reduce Lance Armstrong to this singular dimension.”
[One wonders if by saying that, Sarko brought up his sage perception of the many faceted usages of media coverage: by sports people, politicians, and any whose profits increase through manipulation thereof... one also is left to ponder whether Sarko wants to take a 'miracle drug' (Carla?), or 'seeks evidence', by his prior sentence...]
This week's article, authored by Jean–François Julliard, passes from presumption to promotion in recalling for French readers, how 'Armstrong was convicted' (convaincu) in 2005 for EPO evidence found in his frozen 1999 Samples. No mention of (Director of the Montreal Lab) Dr Alyotte's contemporaneous comments regarding the long–term instability of EPO in frozen urine, no mention of the Helsinki Convention (affording ALL donors of medical research samples a right of total confidentiality: Armstrong earned this once his A Samples were controlled and reported negative), no mention of the Vrijman report (over one hundred pages; discussing the ill–conceived LNDD 'research project' which resulted in the scurrilous L'Equipe article).
Curiously, Julliard ends his first paragraph by insinuating about Armstrong, that this was an:
“(...) accusation of trickery that the interested (party) didn't dare to contest before the French Tribunal(s)...”
SIDEBAR TWO: Cher Jean–François: are you suggesting that a retiring champion cyclist, who was smeared by the very organization that had just bestowed (for the seventh year running) over 600 thousand Euros in prize money, should actually hire an attorney (à la Landis) to contest, in French courts, that which the UCI investigated quite thoroughly, and upon its own budget? Obviously, mon cher, you really should read the Vrijman report again... and ask why LNDD, AFLD and the French Ministry refused to answer Vrijman's follow–up questions?
(NB: Vrijman was the Dutch attorney who once headed the Netherlands' Anti–doping Agency... and remains lively in anti–doping sports law issues)
(Personal ZENmud productions photo (c) 1999-2009)
The LCE article raises contentions by 'noted' cycling journalists Pierre Ballester and David Walsh (perhaps the 'Kitty Kelly's' of the cycling world?), whose 'truths' may be irrelevant to today's real world. They claimed in a recent work: “Le Sale Tour” (en France) that Armstrong confessed having taken, in 1996 (note that date) “EPO, growth hormones, cortisone, steroids and testosterone...”, especially to his team of oncologists in Indianapolis.
WADAwatch discerns three intrinsic points, if we are to take as 'gospel' the statements from Armstrong, as reported by one of his most profitable detractors.
The first observation is, that whatever Armstrong took or didn't take in 1996, has nothing to do with a 2005 analysis of 1999 B Samples stored without perfect chain–of–possession documentation, and 'traced' back to the donor (Lance) in violation of the Helsinki Convention. So it appears disingenuous of author Julliard to discuss this first 'insinuendo'.
Secondly, and most strikingly in Armstrong's favour (we believe), is a comparison of Armstrong's weights, pre–and post–cancer. If we can take it for granted that someone using growth hormones, testosterone and steroids (à la weightlifters or US Football linemen(??)), actually would grow, it corrolates with our knowledge that, as a 23 year–old World Cycling Champion and former triathlete, his weight was up some 7 kilos or so prior to his diagnosis, surgery and treatments.
Armstrong's weight dropped through his illness and post–operative chemotherapy sessions; when he resumed racing for US Postal (French team Cofidis having rewarded Armstrong's cancer announcement with a cancelling of his contract) his body had 'morphed' into a sleeker form...
(Personal ZENmud productions photo (c) 1999-2009)
Such weight loss was presumably a logical process, either through both his chemotherapy, etc., and/or if through the termination of his alleged pre–cancer doping program, and he never went back 'up' to that weight during his seven year victory-streak.
IF Armstrong began doping again, would he not have gained back more weight than he did? (You 'devil's advocates' could say “only if he resumed using the panoply of products he'd used in his 'previous pro life'...”) There are side effects with Testosterone and Steroids, after all...
The third point, and merely procedural at that, is this: in 1999, 'WADA' was only a glimmer in the eye of its righteous birth 'mother' – the International Olympic Committee. Any 'evidence' collected by the French LNDD laboratoire, was done so under UCI rules. If an inherently unstable compound is 'frozen' (power outages? Freezers unplugged for annual maintenance (cleaning)?) for five years, shouldn't any reputable lab seek to research 'long term EPO stability in retained frozen urine Samples', and publish those scientifically-derived results for peer review, prior to insisting it has the legal competence to shout out loud, to all the world, 'results' from B Sample materials whose A Samples were declared Negative six years earlier? if this was done, it's unknown to the medical universe; if it was NOT done, it seems to be a violation of medical-science ethics: this was a point hammered throughout the Vrijman report. (we won't dwell on the boring yet vital argument that a 'B Sample' cannot be converted, through time and the advancement of science, into an 'A Sample': an Athlete is controlled, his or her 'sample' is divided into 'A' and 'B' in front of their eyes, and they sign documents attesting that all was done according to regulations... there's more, but serious readers already have read that argument here time and again... sigh)
(Personal ZENmud productions photo (c) 1999-2009)
We again observe, that M. Julliard had not referred to a strong article written in ASO's publication Vélo magazine, for which crystelZENmud had published (in early 2008) a laborious translation into English; that Vélo Magazine article could, perhaps, be the last positive, semi–scientific article published in France (and in French!) regarding his 'extraterrestrial activity' on a bike.
However, Julliard asks the very question we placed under 'point two' above: was Armstrong's return as 'an icon of cycling', and conquest, really the work of a detoxified cyclist, from his chemical smorgasbord past as witnessed in 1996 (alleged/reported by Ballester and Walsh)? Too bad Julliard doesn't seek explanations: apparently insinuendo is sufficient for this article. Julliard does point toward the four runners–up to Lance's last victory in 2005: all were later convicted, and suspended for two years, for a range of WADA CODE violations.
The next paragraph (in LCE) presents a totally slanted viewpoint: those four clumsy cyclists (due to being 'caught' apparently) should have followed Armstrong's example from March of 2009.
The inaccuracies outnumber veracities in each line: “Armstrong escaped” from the observation of the DCO (who was (and is) a licensed French Doctor); “claimed (to take a shower)” (WADAwatch hopes that French DCOs are at least competent enough to observe the tell–tale signs of recent immersion in hot water), and “returned with the Samples taken (hair, urine) away from the sight of the (DCO)”. How could Armstrong 'return' with a Urine Sample if that individual was waiting for (and with) Johan Bruyneel to confirm, via the UCI, his identification as a French DCO?
Nowhere in the common knowledge of that case, did either party claim “whilst waiting for UCI to confirm the AFLD–sent DCO's identity, Armstrong agreed to take the official Urine Sample contrainers off to the showers while Bruyneel sought confirmation.”. But that is in essence the claim presented by Julliard!
Not convinced we're portraying a French twist (Malignant at that...) to the article? Julliard offers a ready–made conclusion without proof:
This deceitfulness would have presented severe sanctions to any other sportsman.
Once again, we wish that Julliard had consulted the three WADAwatch articles regarding the AFLD 'announcement' of Lance's alleged AFLD Doping Control irregularities:
the AFLD-ermath... on Lance's test (10 April 2009)
Is WADA 'aiding and abetting' Lance? (14 April 2009)
AFLD-ermath redux: Lance unleashed.... (28 April 2009)
If Julliard had read those, he'd perhaps know why AFLD chose not to prosecute Armstrong, after an Italian Soccer player, Cherubin, was supported at the CAS, who confirmed his one–month suspension (by Italy's 'soccer court') in an action brought by WADA. WADA had sought therein a full, two–year suspension for Cherubin's very similar 'showering' 'evasion' situation...
One begins to wonder here, if Julliard is 'aiding and abetting' Damion Ressiot, who (thanks to Amaury Editions' edict) may now be leashed, no longer able to write his heart out, about le vilain Armstrong. What are les amis for, if not to publish that which your house won't allow anymore?
Julliard then claims that this 'dérobade' (departure from normal reaction) by AFLD as to Armstrong is due to a new 'secret agreement' between ASO and UCI, all according to authors Ballester and Walsh.
This is where the article gets interesting, relevant and 'deep'...
This 'secret agreement' allegedly contains some interesting quid pro quo situations.
ASO apparently 'watered down its wine' (French idiom, meaning to accept a lesser standard) regarding UCI's 'lax' rules... (Monsieur Julliard: les rules UCI are word–for–word verbatim copies of the worldwide WADA CODE, of which la France is (cough) a member in good standing), allowing the 'less rigorous' UCI testing methodologies to be employed, in return for access to lucrative 2014 Olympic TV contracts (for France) awarded to Amaury group, as well as management of future Olympic candidates' village dossiers. Whether from Julliard or Ballester/Walsh, the reader finds one name brought into the nexus of this 'rapprochement' between ASO and UCI, by LCE's author Julliard: Jean–Claude Killy.
Killy (who still doesn't remember skiing with Leo Lacroix and this author one day, in the early 1980s, on Vail Mountain, Colorado, with dwindling numbers of sales reps from the American operation for Skis Lacroix: by 11h00 we were four (J–C, Léo, Gary and moi) to finish the day... sigh...), we are reminded, holds a high position with the Amaury group, and remains a strong member of the International Olympic Committee.
Julliard reminds us of 'old news', how in the rapprochement, Patrice Clerc lost his post as president of ASO (and Julliard ignores the 'pro quo': the resignation at UCI of its vice–president Hein Verbruggen), although his wording ignores the old–news aspects, and implies this to be new 'news'.
The connotation is simple: doping had become a wedge issue, whose persistent prioritization by L'Equipe, non? was hurting business... and that the money was more important. Can we presume this from the facts as presented in LCE? Without being more forthright about how UCI could help ASO earn a ton o' cash, the connection remains presumptive,
Julliard, in wrapping the article, reminds us of LCE's prior article, which we summarized in February ( WADA – journalistic coup? ). As did the previous Canard author, Julliard forgets to reason through the bases for Madame Amaury's request for a different treatment of the doping news: D. Ressiot's forté was in publishing (unethically, if not illegally (in our Ww opinion), on conflict–of–interest grounds) “A Sample” results prematurely...
SIDEBAR THREE: remember that the WADA CODE (Articles 7.1/7.2 and 14.1.1–14.1.3) stipulates that one is to wait for an official announcement from the governing Federation, after the B Sample results offer confirmation of A Sample validity. Ressiot had the reputation of seemingly having a 'direct line' to the LNDD café–gossip zone, and had published several A Sample results, even one from Australia.
... Julliard then reminds his audience that France TV2 & 3, the two French public channels who cover le Tour, are not about to 'topple the boat' by discussing doping... This also seems odd, given the so–recent revelations from former TdF winner Laurent Fignon regarding his cancer, and 'dirty secrets' from his two victorious years in the Eighties. Fignon has been a FR TV Tour consultant for many years now: never once did he reveal his own dirty linens, prior to the very recent publication of his book, and resulting press releases and statements. 'Odd' also, simply because Julliard's contention seems to imply this back–peddling on doping is a new change for France TV.
Why didn't Jean–François Julliard write about a French 'doper'? One who was surely a role model for a young teenager from Texas, watching le Tour as he began his triathlon career? Perhaps a focus outward on Lance Armstrong is a means of reducing French audience attention on Fignon's predicament...?
The culminating pièce de résistance, however, is a survey mentioned by Julliard, which was apparently identical to the one mentioned in February's article. In February, LCE author 'Canard' mentioned that sponsors had taken a survey with revealing results: that viewers still enjoyed le Tour, but almost more for the doping stories than the sport itself (Ww compared this to the onset of gratuitous violence in North American Hockey in the 60s and 70s...).
Julliard claims, this week, that the survey proved that viewers watch le Tour for the scenery, more than the sport.
Which is it? Are we watching le Tour to see cheating dopers on thrill–seeking, death–defying Alpine descents, zombie–ing through a three–hour vacation postcard, or the most unique sporting event on this Earth?
SIDEBAR FOUR: Afficianados of French TV may have watched FR2 on Sunday, 28 June, for Michel Drucker's interview with Lance Armstrong. (As noted above, we will offer a short summary of that in the near future...)
Whose agenda is served, when journalism from a respected weekly, (which 'terrorizes the Sarkozy administration once per week) whose insights and foci on French politics are outstandingly precise, presumes upon readers who have no choice but to believe that its cycling/doping content is up to those normal standards, when great swaths are painted through broad insinuendo brush strokes against 'le dopage Armstrong' in cycling? Its article would have certainly been more accurate, if only it had left out the name 'Armstrong' as human scapegoat for all its insinuations, in discussing ASO, Jean–Claude, FR TV2 & 3, and French TV rights for the Satchi Winter Games.
We know that the Astana team has surrounded its ostensible leader, Alberto Contador, with a bevy of English–speaking 'domestiques', who seem hand–picked to aid Armstrong, rather than Contador...
We know that Armstrong is racing without salary, to gain publicity for his humanistic anti–cancer foundation, and has already 'suffered' more than 30 anti–doping controls (most likely about 25 more than any other competitor, in a comparable period, from Europe or the USA)...
We know that AFLD 'classed' (did not pursue) L'Affaire Armstrong 2009', perhaps due to the CAS–Cherubin case having been decided prior to the AFLD decision not to prosecute...
We know his results in the Giro (Top 15 in GC, after a broken Clavicle) made no great revelations, and...
We know that Fignon has not (yet) been forced to relinquish his two Yellow Jerseys from les Quatre–vingts (80s) , as le Tour/ASO did against Bjarne Riis last year...
We know none of this from Le Canard Enchaîné...
.Yo Armstrong! – enjoy your Tour de Lance... keep your eyes off the scenery...
NB: the last photo displayed above (as are the rest), come from a local historic race, A Travers Lausanne, which unfortunately has not proved viable in the post-Lance era (it is sometimes incorporated partially into the Tour de Romandie... sigh). The interesting point to make, is that I was laying half in the street, knowing that the riders, who came off of a right hand bend, would 'trail out' into the middle of the lane. Lance saw me, no doubts about it, and retained a line that went literally over my shoulder, with a smiling/grimace that made me know he understood media wherever, whoever it may be...