LARRY RYAN: Saddled with a history of deceit

To gauge where cycling is at now, to establish how deep it is in the mire, it may be necessary to hold a stage of the Tour de France in front of a Late Late Show studio audience. 

When you look back at David Walsh’s famous 2002 appearance on the Late Late, the most notable thing is the tittering and scorn from the audience for Walsh’s scepticism of Stephen Roche and the bona fides of cycling’s iron men.

It was a bit like the time Fintan O’Toole tried to take on the Wolfe Tones on the show.

Back then, David Walsh was one of a minority of credible voices trying to pull the whole thing down. Now he appears to be one of the minority of credible voices propping it up.

During the week, Walsh was on Off The Ball, backing up his belief in Chris Froome and Team Sky and sounding like a fella tasked with explaining what’s going on in the new season of True Detective.

Power wattage? You’re asking the wrong man, Ger.

The tittering and scorn soon surfaced again, this time on Twitter.

But Twitter is Twitter, where they know it all. You’d still like Froome and co to freewheel across Studio 4 in Montrose, to see if there is any hope at all.

Or whether it’s time to call it a day. Just hold our hands up and take in the bigger picture.

It’s only cycling. We loved and lost. And moved on.

I accept we’re flirting here with 22-men-kicking-a-spherical-object territory. Perspective is the enemy of sport. There are hopes and dreams and sponsors involved and we must tread warily.

But this is a sport in a unique position — in the very opposite of what they’d call bonus territory.

We take it for granted now that our old friend controvassy is embedded in the fabric of nearly every sport.

Indeed controvassy — in the form of who slammed who — is the very lifeblood of many of our finest sporting institutions, such as the Premier League.

But it becomes a little different when the only thing you’re offering is controvassy. And possibly scenery.

If you were to be cruel, you could say cycling has become the James McClean of the sporting world. Capable, sure, of producing the odd gallant, head-down, daredevil dash, but discussed almost exclusively in terms of its long-term relationship with controvassy.

As things stand, there is only a select handful of people gaining any credit from cycling achievement; the old geezers who will tell you how far — and back — they used to cycle to, say, a Munster final.

Perhaps it’s time to shout stop before even those claims are tainted, and oul fellas everywhere are asked to divulge their maximal aerobic power and dig out their chainrings.

As we watch poor old Froome trying not to win the Tour de France by too much, in order to minimise the amount of urine thrown over him, and we listen to the clamour for his performance data, and the holes being picked in the performance data we have, that old enemy perspective pokes its head up.

British physician and science writer Dr Ben Goldacre drew attention, on buzzfeed.com, to an editorial published this week by the British Medical Journal. The BMJ has requested original patient data from 32 major trials of statins — the most commonly prescribed drug class in the developed world — and received only seven responses.

Another study found that just 37 clinical studies, out of thousands, has been independently analysed. The medical research world isn’t keen on sharing its know-how. There is another good reason for the lack of candour. When data is shared, Goldacre pointed out many discrepancies and flaws are discovered.

Yet, we wait optimistically on complete transparency and accuracy from a Rupert Murdoch-backed enterprise keen to preserve its advantage at cycling up mountains.

And would we be satisfied if all the data was laid on the table and every rider performed directly in keeping with his physiological capacity?

For a sport grown addicted to controvassy, there mightn’t be much buzz off coherence.

This time around, Stephen Roche finds himself on the same side of the argument as David Walsh. Other journalists are lucky Chris Froome is not a footballer or a rugby player, reckoned Stephen, or they’d be going home with broken noses. But no data on the number of footballers or rugby players who have punched journalists at pressers has yet been produced.

Putting sexism in its correct place

It is a funny old game, sexism. Little flourishes of relatively victimless sexism command a great deal more attention that the old endemic, institutional sexism we know so well.

TG4 had a mixed week on the sexism front, copping as much praise as flak for their ‘nine months’ ad. The praise was due, since it was the most talked about ad for a women’s sporting event in living memory, but was the flak? It certainly veered into ‘Lionesses’ territory, emphasising womanhood over the sport.

And TG4 weren’t entirely on board, since it was apparently not meant to see daylight. A pregnant pause of the campaign, if you like. But it is interesting the criticism TG4 did receive was far more virulent than Peter Alliss did for his silly remarks about Zach Johnson’s wife. PC gone mad, was largely the call, on that one.

But, with these things, context and actions are always worth considering. TG4 is one of the biggest supporters of women’s sport in this country. Peter Alliss is regarded as the “voice of golf’, a sport with long and proud track record of sexism. Who deserves benefit of any doubt?

Word of warning to GAA players

In the eyes of The Sunday Game panelist Kevin McStay, Paul Geaney deserved a black card for pointing out quite volubly to Michael Shields last Saturday that he’d just scored a goal. While Conor McManus tapping Neil McGee patronisingly on the chest after a point was “part of the life we live”. If the cyclists must supply spreadsheets of power metrics to prove their bona fides, Gaelic footballers may soon be obliged to circulate body language analysis data and ideally sound files to legitimise on-field conversations.

Heroes & Villains

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Brian Kerr:

Keeping George Hamilton on track at Oriel Park: “Seven minutes of injury time. Seven minutes!!” Kerr: “That’s a sub, George.”

Simon Brodkin:

Whatever about the rest of his act, his timing in chucking those bank notes over Sepp gave us one of the year’s iconic photos.

HELL IN A HANDCART

Hammering the hammer:

GAA managers, stay one step ahead this weekend with this exclusive coaching tip - hammer the hammerer of the hammer. Cheques to the usual address.

Philip Harris:

Clever directorship from the Arsenal director. Taking the now-traditional route toensuring cash stays in the bank by telling the world Arsene is ready to spend silly money.


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