Just before Christmas the people of Navarre witnessed a very sporting gesture from Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya.
At the conclusion of the cross-country race Fernandez was lying second well behind Olympic bronze medallist Abel Mutai. With ten metres to go the surface changed and Mutai mistakenly believed he had crossed the line, Fernandez closed on him in the final straight. Rather than taking advantage of the mistake Fernandez ushered Mutai ahead and they shook hands after they crossed the line.
While sport is something that many people feel has no effect on their lives, it is worth bearing in mind that society can draw it’s morals and mores from sport and celebrity culture these days as it used to from the church and political leaders in the past. The idea that bullies and cheats like Lance Armstrong get to dictate what is seen as right and wrong spreads beyond sport.
Journalism has been dirtied as much as cycling by the actions, reactions and reporting of the Armstrong affair and the general cancer of doping in sport. Reputations and professional and personal lives have been destroyed by the likes of Armstrong, their corporate and legal wings crushing all dissent. Journalists, as well as clean cyclists and others associated with the sport such as the unfortunate masseuses, partners of clean cyclists etc have been vilified and all too often their comrades in the press ostracised them and made life intolerable. Armstrong has brought great shame on cycling but as journalist David Walsh points out, what was far worse than Armstrong’s doping was his bullying. He and his legal team threatened, sued and bullied people out of their jobs and their wellbeing. In his cosy interview with lightweight Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong was asked ‘You’re suing people and you know they’re telling the truth. What is that?’ That’s the British and Irish libel laws Oprah. And when asked about destroying his former masseuse’s life “Ha, to be honest we sued so many people I don’t even remember.”, a sociopath with money is a danger to all. We know we’ve got them running the media in this country.
We’ll leave the last word to Paul Kimmage, the former Tour de France finisher whose life as a journalist has been a lonely road as he set about taking on the dopers. Vindicated at long last he commented this morning on Armstrong’s ‘contrition’ :
‘Lance Armstrong should be in jail’
Paul Kimmage tries to interrogate the bully Lance Armstrong, (note the journalists applauding Armstrong at the end)