I'm sorry, I really am sorry, but I have finally lost it with Phil Liggett. I try to avoid getting into the Lance gutter, but this one has got me, fully and finally. It's not the recitation of the full Lance Armstrong case for the defence - although it is useful to have a handy primer all in one place, so thanks Phil. And let's face it, it is all here, from conspiracy, to 500 drugs tests, to time expiry, to Cancer. No - it's the source. This is a man that purports to be a journalist. I am expected to listen to him commentating on a race and take his views. What he is reciting here is not only one sided, it is provably false, laden with innuendo, and knee deep in unsupported, libellous ad hominem.
Given his role in the sport, it needs - nay demands - to be challenged. I think it deserves a good and thorough Fisking. So on the jump, join me, and keep a babywipe handy for cleaning the froth off the computer screen. I may have mislaid my normal sunny disposition, and I don't think I have written a single, weak, lame or decrepit gag. Makes me want to cry."We must ask the question, why is USADA doing this when the Federal investigators withdrew their $40m investigation for lack of evidence"
Right off the bat, it is hard to know how to start. I mean, don't we even get a neutral zone roll out? Firstly, why do we have to ask the question why USADA is doing it? Is there not a simple reason: that they are the US Anti Doping Authority (see what I did there, Phil, the hint is in the title?) and they are prosecuting an alleged doper. Sort of right in their wheelhouse, I would think. Just by asking the question in that way, you are impugning their integrity, without needing to advance a shred of evidence. If you have evidence that this is anything other than it says on the tin, please advance it. Otherwise, it seems like an agency doing its day job. [Breath]
And I haven't even got to the second clause yet. Onto the Feds... this is the first time I have heard the $40m number - would be fascinated to know where you got it from. [Aside to PdCers... anyone know if he has anything to hang his hat on hear... I would be amazed, but asking for knowledge, since I have a sneaking suspicion he is conflating it with the Balco work]. Anyway, the Feds, just to be clear, were looking for provable federal criminal activity. The fact that they didn't have sufficient evidence to prosecute anything in the US does not mean he was not doping. It simply means that they couldn't make a criminal case. A difference which I have a sneaking suspicion Lance may be grateful for at some stage. Different authorities looking for different thinks - it is a deft, deliberate, and mendacious slight of hand to confuse the two.
"It's politically motivated"
Really? That is some charge - accusing USADA of corruption on a significant scale. As a journalist, Phil, I hope you have some evidence to back that statement up.
"There is another reason behind it which they are clearly not saying"
Which is? Any evidence? Getting pretty close to slander here, Mr Liggett.
"They are the national anti-drugs agency, so why are they bothering with all these offences which happened in another country?"
It's their job, Phil, that is why. National ADAs are responsible for sanctioning (or not) national riders. Contador went in front of the Spanish authorities for offences also committed in France, in case it had slipped your notice. Sorry if the details are beyond you, I admit it was a pretty minor story in cycling and might have slipped the mind of a cycling journalist.
"He's been fully investigated by powers much more powerful than USADA"
Really? By whom? If he means the Feds, see above. If he means the UCI, please don't make me laugh. The truth is that Lance has not been significantly investigated by any official (as opposed to journalistic) body before the Feds got started, unless you count Pat McQuaid and his three minutes of internet browsing.
"I only actually know what I read in the press like you do"
So why, if I may ask the question, are you speaking? And shouldn't you, as a journalist, do a small modicum of research?
"They suspended him for life. I very much doubt whether they have the authority to do that"
Let's be clear about this one. They do. Whether they are right to do so is a whole different matter. But do they have the authority to ban an egregious dope trafficker? Yes, absolutely.
"Who does the title go to? The riders who finished second to Lance have since bee found to be taking drugs"
Sadly, this is broadly true, though Andreas Kloden might argue the toss (to general incredulity). But it is not actually a reason not to strip Lance, it is a problem you have to solve after you have stripped him.
"It all comes back to the question why is USADA doing this"
No. It really doesn't. It comes back to the question "did Lance dope". Everything else is details.
"They [USADA] say it is impossible to win seven tours. Many people say it is impossible to win any tours".
Um nope. USADA aren't saying this at all. Nothing on the record, nothing off the record. They are simply saying that they think these seven tours were won by drugs. This is called setting up a straw man.
"These so-called witnesses"
We will get on to the witness question in a bit, but I love the "so-called"
"We know two of these witnesses have created perjury..."
Well, no one has (yet) been convicted of perjury, so although I agree that Floyd has probably perjured himself, Phil is doing the same thing to Landis as he is accusing others of doing to Lance. Also, I am not sure that Tyler has ever been on oath - he has certainly lied, but did he perjure? Not sure.
And to point out the obvious fact, so far we have discussed two out of ten witnesses... And on the witnesses, no-one formally knows their identity, but common belief suggests that they include Vaughters, Zabriskie and Hincapie amongst them. In a phrase whose source escapes me, "I like their credibility"
"The fact remains there is no evidence"
This is a palpably incorrect statement. Witness statements are evidence - legally as well as morally. Courts deal with witness evidence the whole damn time. Wilful ignorance, Phil.
"He's done over five hundred drugs tests"
As we all here know, the real number is probably max around 250. The fact that Liggett is quoting the 500 number shows his ignorance and partiality. While the DDIFP may have their own axes to grind, Liggett cannot claim ignorance of the theory and has a journalistic duty to check it before quoting the PR line.
"What happened to the statute of limitations which is only eight years?"
Think it is seven actually, isnt it? Lawyers please chip in. Actually, Phil has a point here, in that it looks like USADA may be pulling a fast one to get around the statue, and certainly the optics aren't great.
"I don't believe this agency quite knows what it is up against"
Huh? Got a spare horse's head lying around have you? And at this juncture, not to be too blunt about this, I would say that the USADA is somewhat ahead on points.
"These same people are saying of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome... what drugs are they taking"
Classic misdirection. Linking Wiggins and Froome to Armstrong is both false and irrelevant. It is basically the Chewbacca defence. Plus, he is implying that USADA are "these same people" - USADA, to state the obvious, have said nothing about Wiggins and Froome.
"You can't turn a donkey into a racehorse..."
Arrrrggh. Please make it stop.
"You are talking to a non expert, let me emphasise that"
"You have to log on the internet every minute of your life where you are"
Um no. Just one hour per day, I believe. Which is why many of the tests are early in the morning, because that is when the riders say they know where they will be. So the whole "go to the pub" story is, frankly, bollocks. And someone who spends as much time around cycling as Liggett does should know it is bollocks. So either he is ignorant as to how drug controls work, in which case (a) what has he been doing for the last decade, and (b) he should simply shut the **** up, or he is knowingly perpetuating a falsehood.
Plus, to state the blindingly obvious, Lance isn't being accused of missing a drugs test. So the whole speech is irrelevant.
"Those out of competition tests must catch you out"
Honestly, this is too easy, and too depressing. Ullrich. Basso. Valverde. Zuelle. Need I go on? Plenty of cyclists spent many years beating the tests. We know far, far too much about how ineffective testing is, and especially was, and especially when it didnt exist, to give this line more than the 15 seconds it takes to explode in frustration.
"He has raised over 600m Rands for Cancer Survivors"
That's £40m. Livestrong certainly has raised that much (and more). However, firstly Armstrong isn't Livestrong, though obviously they are closely related, and secondly the use of that money is much more opaque than Liggett makes it out to be. I want to stay away from the Livestrong debate because truth be told I don't know enough, but it is almost comforting to see the cancer shield being rolled out.
"USADA is a nefarious local drugs agency in the United States"
Thank goodness for the First Amendment, hey Phil? Any evidence for that charge, by the way?
"You will never want for money again"
This is truly bizarre. Liggett apparently has the journalistic scoop to end all scoops - actual evidence of an anti Lance conspiracy... which "I could prove it if necessary". So why isn't he in the process of winning his pulitzer, as opposed to dropping it in to the end of a two bit radio interview in South Africa? Just mad, even if you accept the premise.
Never a truer word...
So there you have it. Phil Liggett, a journalist, has evidence of a malicious, corrupt, political prosecution of an innocent man. But hasn't got around to publishing it. What a farce. Genuinely, I think ITV4 has a credibility problem next year if they don't replace the P&P show as commentators. Unless he advances evidence to support what he is saying, one can only say what he is reciting here is biased, ignorant, based on verifiable falsehoods, and dangerously close to slander. It is the work of a PR shill, and they have no right to be advanced as independent journalists.
[breath deeply, step back, press publish, and see what happens...]