Today is a terrible day because Twisted Spoke is forced to do something disappointing and sad. We’re going to have to call venerable cycling TV commentator Phil Liggett a “doddering fool.”
This decisive action is occasioned by Liggett blindly continuing to support Lance Armstrong despite the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence contained in the USADA “reasoned decision.”
Let’s start with reason — not that it does much good when you’re a die-hard, eyes closed, fingers in ears Armstrong supporter. Liggett stands by Armstrong but admits he hasn’t even read the USADA report! He’s sticking with Lance because Lance told him he didn’t dope and never mind the incriminating testimony of 26 people including 11 riders former Postal teammates. Okay, glad you never went into the law profession.
Not even bothering to read the USADA report qualifies as dereliction of duty. For most North American cycling fans, Liggett and side kick Paul Sherwen are THE voices of pro bike racing. We’ll all been listening to Phil and Paul call the Tour de France and California and Colorado and Roubaix for as long as we can remember. He’s supposed to be an authority and people respect (past-tense for us) his opinions on cycling.
What analogies comes to mind? I’m a top White House reporter but when that President Bush hoax about weapons of mass destruction hit, I just didn’t get around to reading the story. I’m a respected writer on the global economy but I just didn’t bother understanding the US banking crisis. I’m a famous music critic but I was too busy to listen to U2, Little Wayne or Bob Marley.
Liggett is starting to sound like one of those play dolls with the pull switch to make them speak. “It is a witch hunt, lets face it, because they only want Lance. Call it what you like, the fact is they only have one ambition and that’s to get Lance.” Really, Phil, it wasn’t a witch hunt — factual evidence was heavily involved. They didn’t find a witch but they did find the dark lord.
Phil’s logic is pretty fuzzy. On one hand he agrees that Tyler Hamilton could never have made up that crazy doping stuff in his book, The Secret Race. “I don’t believe it’s possible to write a book like Tyler Hamilton has done without it being the truth. I don’t think it’s possible,” says Phil. But he can’t bring himself to connect the synapses and call his long time pal Lance a doper.
Sadly, Liggett’s ultimate excuse — this from a man who has spent his life commentating on and writing about pro cycling — is that he’s too far away from the action to actually know what’s going on. He pleads ignorance of a sport that many casual fans think he’s an expert in. “Don’t forget, on television we don’t actually mix with the riders. I call the pictures as I see them.” I think I was so shocked by that one my head hit the floor and I didn’t regain consciousness for 15 minutes.
Those of us who have listened to Phil forever know he likes to disparage any rider who dopes. He gets all crusty and pontificates about them having no business in the sport and that they should be prosecuted without mercy. Except Armstrong. The Boss receives the “get out of USADA card” because he’s also an inspirational figure in the fight against cancer. Hey, no disagreement there — Lance has been an amazing fundraiser but that doesn’t alter the cheating on seven tour victories.
Most critics feel that UCI President Patrick McQuaid must go if the sport has any hope of regaining its integrity. As much as we at Twisted Spoke hate to say it, now, Phil must also be put out to pasture. This is no time for cluelessness and willful ignorance.
Mr. Liggett must reach into his suitcase of courage and integrity before it’s too late. No, sorry, too late.