David Walsh

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The Program: Lance Armstrong does not live strong


Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Cast: Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong, Chris O’Dowd as David Walsh, Guillaume Canet as Michele Ferrari, Jesse Plemons as Floyd Landis, Lee Pace as Bill Stapleton, Denis Menochet as Johan Bruyneel, Dustin Hoffman as Bob Hamman, Edward Hogg as Frankie Andreu,Elaine Cassidy as Betsy Andreu,Laura Donnelly as Emma O’Reilly, Bryan Greenberg, Sam Hoare as Stephen Swart, Kevin Hulsmans as Filippo Simeoni, Alex Croft as Unspecified European Cyclist, Matthew Radford as Unspecified Mountain Bike Rider, Josh O’Connor as Rich, Nathan Wiley as Charles Pelkey.

The Program is a film based on journalist David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

Walsh of  the Sunday Times is convinced that Lance Armstrong’s victories in the Tour De France are fueled  by performance-enhancing drugs. The journalist’s reaction on meeting Armstrong for the first time is that he’s good but not great.

“He’s good enough to win a day race but not the Tour,” he announces to his fellow journalists but then Armstrong has him eating his words.

Armstrong too realises that he’s just not good enough to win the Tour De France on his own. He turns to Italian physician Michele Ferrari for help.

Ferrari rejects him initially because he believes that Armstrong is simply not built for racing.

Armstrong is struck with testicular cancer but recovers to found the Live Strong foundation to assist other cancer survivors.

But the film leaves the viewers with no ambiguity about Armstrong’s villainy when a doctor bursts into his hospital room with the query whether he had ever used performance enhancing drugs while training.

Following his recovery, Armstrong seeks out Ferrari again this time convincing him that his body shape has changed since his cancer treatment.

Ferrari agrees to work with him starting him on a course of Erythropoietin or EPO. EPO increases the production of red blood cells thus increasing VO2 max in athletes.

Armstrong is the leader of the US Postal Team winning the Tour De France seven consecutive times. Armstrong institutes a doping culture within the side that includes Floyd Landis who is seen as the logical successor to Armstrong when he retires.

Armstrong considers himself bigger than the sport itself believing himself to be untouchable; he feels that the integrity of cycling would be compromised if his positive test results are disclosed to the world at large.

Armstrong manages to appear above it all; challenging his opponents in court and in the court of public opinion claiming that he has never tested positive.

He takes Walsh and the Sunday Times to court and wins damages.

Armstrong also wins a case against SCA Promotions who attempt to withhold his $5 million bonus.

The Texan retires after claiming a record seven Tour De France titles. He is widely considered the greatest ever cyclist.

Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of th...

Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of the 2010 Tour de France in Rotterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following his retirement, his former teammate Floyd Landis wins the 2006 Tour De France. He later tested positive for  an unusually high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone (T/E ratio).

Landis at the 2006 Tour of California

Landis at the 2006 Tour of California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Landis first denied the allegations but later testified to the same accusing Armstrong among others.

The Federal investigation leading from his allegations was dropped but a later United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation found Armstrong guilty. He was banned for life.

With his lies unraveling, Armstrong finally comes clean to Oprah Winfrey on national television.

Ben Foster plays Armstrong with a conviction that conveys his single-mindedness in pursuit of cycling’s Holy Grail. He brooks no opposition in pursuit of his goal. He can be both charming and charismatic. He rubs shoulders with the high and mighty and the best of Hollywood. He has  no qualms about cheating believing that the sport is riddled with them.

Jesse Plemons is Floyd Landis, a conflicted rider who sees Lance as his mentor but is devastated on being left out in the cold when he’s caught. He gives up Armstrong and his former teammates turning whistle-blower.

The movie though leaves you cold. Armstrong has no redeeming qualities–even his work for his own foundation Live Strong leaves the audience unmoved.

Catch it if you’re interested in the Armstrong saga. But don’t expect fireworks or thrilling sporting action. There is very little to redeem a movie that could well have been a documentary.

Kevin Pietersen: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Kevin Pietersen believes that writing a tell-it-all (or blame-them-all) autobiography is curative.

Kevin Pietersen after training at Adelaide Oval

Kevin Pietersen after training at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What he said:

“And it was papering over a lot of cracks, and so for me it’s been very therapeutic to get it out there.”

Kevin Pietersen chatting with Phil Walker of All Out Cricket reveals that disclosing his side of the story in his memoirs “KP: The Autobiography” was necessary for his peace of mind.

Pietersen said:

“I’ve needed to do this. I’ve needed to tell the world. There have been too many character assassinations and continual leaks to certain journalists about me, and things that I’ve supposedly done, which are absolute garbage. So I’ve needed to be honest, I’ve needed to be open. With a book like this, with all the allegations in it, you don’t do it faint-heartedly, you don’t do it without any evidence, and so I took a lot of time going through this, and David Walsh and I are really proud of what we produced.”

On the effect his revelations have had on the English game’s reputation:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m heartbroken, mate. But you know what? Sometimes, in order for things to happen, in order for things to change, you sometimes have to hit rock bottom. I’m incredibly proud that I’ve been able to unearth some of the stuff I’ve unearthed because it was a horrible place for some players, and a lot of players feel aggrieved with a lot of the stuff that they’ve had to put up with. And it was papering over a lot of cracks, and so for me it’s been very therapeutic to get it out there. And I hope that even if I don’t ever play for England again that English cricket will look at this, they’ll have a look at this, and they’ll start sorting things out.”

English: Scarecrow Number 3, a cricketer with ...

English: Scarecrow Number 3, a cricketer with the face of Kevin Pietersen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What Pietersen really meant:

 “It’s just what the doctor ordered. Dr. Pietersen.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I really flowered under (Andy) Flower.”

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