The Yellow Raven
The Yellow Raven
Have you heard the tale about the two ex-Celts playing a four-ball at the Belfry with a journalist and his buddy?
The journalist knew both players, but presumed they wouldn’t know him. He wasn’t surprised to learn that Shaun Maloney was playing off a 10 handicap. Fit young man with good eye-to-ball coordination and competitiveness of the professional sportsman. Makes sense.
What he did find surprising was Steve Guppy declaring a 22 handicap (twenty-two). Our journalist takes the view that a man should not declare anything over an 18 handicap (as an erstwhile hacker, I disagree completely … the handicap is measured and verified, that is the whole point!)
It is fair to say our journalist’s initial misgivings were confirmed, as Steve managed to par 3 holes and one birdie in the first four holes.
When you learn more about our intrepid journalist, you will not be surprised to know he was …unlikely, to allow that to pass without comment!
At the 5th tee, he could contain himself no longer…he confronted his playing partner, approximately thus….
‘Steve, I have to say you are playing superbly! You have achieved 1 under par (-1) on one of the toughest courses in the world… yet you are claiming a 22 handicap… I’m just not having that…’ or words to that effect etc., ( see the you-tube video)
At which point Steve dropped onto all fours at our journalist’s feet, pleading…
‘O.K. O.K but please don’t pursue me for 13 years…’ …or words to that effect.
It was all a good laugh, although it was clear that the journalist’s outspoken style and reputation, had preceded him.
The journalist was none other, than the ‘mighty’ David Walsh.
The author of L.A. Confidential and arch-Nemesis of Lance Armstrong, and sundry doping cheats in general.
As a massive cycling fan, my memories are vivid to this day on how much he was ridiculed and mocked in July 1999, when he wrote his, then infamous ( now prophetical), piece in The London Times.
Extolling sports fans everywhere, to keep their hands firmly by their sides, not cheer in salute, as Lance Armstrong rolled down the Champs Elysees to collect his first Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey). The Premiere prize of Le Classement General du Tour de France.
He knew something just wasn’t right…and by god he WAS right.
What personal qualities are required to chase a story that no-one wants to hear?
For 13 years…fully backed by Alex Butler, his trusting Sports Editor and then by The London Times, to the tune of £1m in legal costs (and settlement) with concomitant risks of libel costs nearing £5m in U.K. alone!
Advice was clear and direct. They had to back off.
Much more evidence would be required, and even then, evidence may not be enough for courts in U.K.
David Walsh didn’t have many allies in those days.
Slowly but surely insiders approached him and provided little nuggets of information that would help him stay focused on his mission. The confidence he surely needed to build a case.
A case that, eventually, the FBI and US Anti-Doping and UCI would follow, to a not-so-inevitable conclusion.
The little snippets of information were never enough, never conclusive. Almost after a decade of ferreting and searching for the evidence, he seemed no closer to exposing Armstrong and his associates.
What drives a man to continue for so long?
Simply, a desire for ‘the truth’ to be told.
When it was becoming increasingly clear that his fellow journalists ( whom he had witnessed laughing out loud and mocking ( sur le juice) Armstrong, who was going so fast on the Hors Category climbs, that he was braking on corners of switchbacks. Going UP the mountains!!
The media would do absolutely nothing as the ongoing cancer-recovering/phenomenon/’success story’, was just too lucrative.
The journalists all knew, they played along with a conspiracy of silence and they shamed their profession.
They all sat in silence as Armstrong mocked Walsh openly at Press Conferences…(you can watch this on link)
“Extraordinary Allegations need Extraordinary Proof”
It was far worse than a simple conspiracy of silence by MSM.
The governing body for cycling, The UCI, knew before his first Tour ‘win’ that Armstrong was doping. They had gathered evidence at a pre-Tour preparation competition in the early summer of 1999!
Armstrong confided in team-mate Tyler Hamilton, that he had tested positive. They were both extremely worried men, and for a while they thought the game was up!
All this in the year after the Festina/Michele Ferrari EPO scandal.
Yet, nothing was done.
Everything smoothed over and ‘fixed’. It later emerged that Armstrong agreed to donate a significant sum of money to procure … dope-testing equipment!
Tyler Hamilton is on record at a presentation he gave at Oxford University, stating that EPO doping was openly used, so much so it was referred to as ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ in the US POSTAL TEAM.
Gothic Horror unveiling in the 21st Century. The Raven in yellow…
The commercial interests from USA and that massive potential audience, untapped for over a decade since the 3 epic Tour wins by Greg LeMond (the only other US winner), would not be thwarted or de-railed by some pesky test-tube filled with dodgy piss.
Think bike sales, kit sales, TV sports packages. The 3 week package-trips to France, the Media Frenzy.
Getting to the point now lads.
In that period I was a huge Armstrong/US Postal fan. Hincape, Hamilton, De la Pena all ‘drafting’ Lance up and down the huge mountains and breaking the spirit and willpower of everything European cycling could muster.
Does anyone remember the haunted look on Jan Ullrich’s face as Armstrong sailed past him on a climb (Jan had refused to attack, as Armstrong’s handlebars became entangled with a spectator’s backpack). The American jumped back on his bike and whipped past the stationary German without so much as a ‘cheers buddy’, leaving Ulrich stranded on that hill, stuck on his huge gear (sic). Unable to pursue. No folksy nonsense for Lance… no sirree! (Note: Ullrich was later stripped of his only Tour win …admitting to doping. Therefore, any sympathy for him should be tempered)
Despite everything, US were invincible and a breath of fresh air at the time. It was infectious, heady daze.
I was out and about on my Cube bike ( couldn’t afford a Trek,and was definitely NOT wearing a red white ‘n’ blue kit …?) testing my skills on the hills between Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.
I was into it so much so that I spent my 40th Birthday in Paris to watch Lance and his team ride to 4 in a row. The place was buzzing and a great atmosphere, Lone Star flags everywhere… USA USA USA bellowing out across the balconies of the expensive flats above Place de Rivoli and Place de Concorde.
No-one seemed to care about doping and the Basque and Dutch and French fans we talked to, fully understood the issues, but acknowledged ‘everyone is doing it’.
No-one wins Le Tour on Pan Y Agua… you cannot ride 3 weeks at those speeds, on simple bread and water.
One must be properly ‘prepared’
David Walsh had continued to campaign, relentlessly, but the cycling world still wasn’t listening.
Still, undaunted, he continued. Building a case, piecing it all together.
The parallels in this case with the ongoing Sevco debacle, will not be lost on fellow Hoops!? As a supporter of Armstrong in those days, I’m beginning to realise why some people, in certain circumstances, can remain ‘blind’ to the truth. A stark realisation on my part.
What struck me was how stupidly Armstrong then behaved, leading to him finally being caught.
He had won seven Tours in a row, a feat never achieved before.
A multi-millionaire, with Global Reach. Friends in very high places. A Rock star girlfriend ( Sheryl Crow) ….and The Yellow Raven.
However, after a few years away from the limelight, he was tempted back to the Tour, like the grizzled fighter drawn back to the ring, unable to resist one more purse, one more belt… one more Yellow Jersey.
The Champ..or, Le Chump?
Over the years Armstrong had made many enemies, but they could not land a telling blow. He knew this, of course, but In the end it hubris that floored him. When Floyd Landis his Ex-teammate and another disgraced ‘doper’ (banned by UCI for 2 years) pleaded to join Armstrong’s new cycling team, the ‘Master of Spin’ told him he was damaged goods/toxic.
Now Landis couldn’t get a gig anywhere, no other team would make an offer. Now desperate and scorned, like a spurned lover, Landis decided to strike back. He knew where the bodies were buried, or more importantly, where the needles were buried.
The Raven on a descent into the abyss…
The rest is history, as more former team-mates came out the woodwork: Tyler Hamilton, Emma O’Reilly (his masseuse), Frankie Andrei (and his wife Betsy) and many others rained in with body shots and the former Champ was losing on points…
The big knockout pile-driver was delivered In 2012, when the UCI finally announced that Armstrong was “not wanted” by cycling.
However, they did want his 7 Yellow Jerseys back, not to mention almost £4m in Tour Prize money.
The sweetest moment for David Walsh must have been on the Oprah show, when she asked Armstrong if he should apologise to The journalist?
Armstrong: “Yes, yes I would apologise to him” ( he hasn’t apologised)
If you have time, watch the video. I could never do it justice (sic).
Now Imagine, if you will, David Walsh being agitated enough, getting upset enough, to decide to sink his teeth into the SFA then UEFA/FIFA?
That’s a much bigger story!
Maybe the Evening Times will set an assignment…(cough!)
Guest article by Saltires en Sevilla.
Change the record by sending an article to: