Four Corners Debrief

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If you’re a cycling fan living in Australia you probably would have tuned into ABC’s Four Corners last night. I didn’t expect to see or hear anything new and I assumed it was going to be paired down so than any layperson could understand. It was anything but that…

The ratings came in at 1.03 million people who watched Four Corners last evening (5th for the night). Four Corners had a 11.9% audience share last week, and 21.3% this week by screening its “The World According To Lance“. This doesn’t include online views (which are not geo-blocked for all you international guests). To put that into perspective, SBS peaked with its TdF coverage this year on Stage 11 attracting an average national audience of 502,000 with a 20.8% market share. The ratings speak for themselves; Everyone loves a scandal.

Four Corners did a remarkable job at putting the whole story together and assembling the right experts and witnesses. We’ve read most of the allegations, reports, and testimonies throughout various news articles and books, but it was nice to see fresh vision of these interviews along with the body language and disposition behind many of the characters in this soap opera. Betsy Andreu, Michael Ashenden, Emma O’Reilly, Joerg Jaksche, Dick Pound, were all brilliant.

The first unexpected bombshell that Four Corners dropped was Phil Liggett’s acknowledgement of Lance Armstrong’s guilt and the evidence behind it (see his interview at the 21min mark). It’s a dramatic change of tune from his delusional radio interview in August where he claimed that bribery of witnesses took place. Phil told Four Corners (at 21 minutes), “Look, I admit. I’ve been very proud to commentate on Armstrong all these years because I’ve seen a man and I’ve seen how he’s battled the elements and I see how he’s come forward. I’m very sad. What do I think? Everybody else did it, so I find it very difficult to not to think that Lance did it.”

The interviews with WADA’s ex-president Dick Pound were also alarming. Pound recalled a conversation with Hein Verbruggen, “I said, Hein, you guys have a huge problem in your sport. He said ‘what do you mean?’ I said ‘the doping’. ‘Well’, he said, ‘that’s really the fault of the spectators’. And I said ‘I beg your pardon, it’s the spectators’ fault?’ Well’ he said, ‘yes, if they were happy with the Tour de France at 25K, you know we’d be fine. But’, he said, ‘if they want it at 41 and 42’, he said, ‘the riders have to prepare’. And I just shook my head and said ‘well, you heard it here first, you got a big problem’.”

Of course this is inexcusable, but there is an underlying truth to it. We demand these superhuman displays of strength and “courage”, when in fact we were bored silly with the lack of attacks and panache in this year’s Tour de France. I’m not saying that I’m convinced that the 2012 TdF was 100% clean, but it certainly lacked the drama we saw in the 90’s. We complained about it and there were whispers of, “…the Tour was better with doping.”

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of the show was watching poor Phil Anderson squirm when blindsided with the $1M Coors Classic prize money question and the chop that may have taken place. Awww, C’mon Phil! We all know how it works. Nothing to be ashamed of. I had a chop going in Amy’s Gran Fondo for God’s sake!

After everything that’s being revealed at the moment, I find the following difficult to comprehend:

1. The UCI suspicion index which was leaked in 2011 had Lance Armstrong rated as a 4 (out of 10). Apparently the UCI did not see any reason to scrutinise him.

2. That ASADA did their due diligence on Matt White after being named by Floyd Landis in 2010 and were instructed to investigate. After that, Matt White gets fired for sending Trent Lowe to USPS’s notorious drug doctor and he still gets a job with CA. Why were regular cyclists shaking their heads at this but nothing done by ASADA? Read Michael Ashenden’s scathing article on SHM today.

3. Within the past few weeks Vinokourov has been given the role of GM of Astana, Ekimov now the GM of Katusha, Andersen takes Bruyneel’s place at RadioShack. How much more messed up can things get? Things supposed to be getting better, not worse.

4. How anyone can still put faith into believing that Lance Armstrong has done more good than harm for cancer sufferers and cycling. From where I sit, all I see is that Lance has used Livestrong as a weapon to attack people with whenever he’s questioned. He has now brought professional cycling to it’s knees and continues to hide behind his cancer work. Whatever positive sentiments I had about Lance’s charity work in the past, I reneg on every word of it. It was only used to conceal the truth.

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled” — Mark Twain