International Olympic Committee

Lance Armstrong, and the time for accountability

There are two plays going on in the matter of Lance Armstrong. One is to the court of public opinion. That's why he's talking to Oprah Winfrey. It's good for ratings, probably, but substantively may ultimately prove little. Lance Armstrong got caught in a big lie and now he wants something, so anything he says publicly has to be measured against what he wants.

Which leads directly to the second play: Lance Armstrong wants to compete again. To be clear, his cycling career is done. It's not that. Instead, he wants to compete in triathlons.

And so he's trying to figure out how to do that.

The challenge is that the one thing that has always been the hallmark of the Armstrong way has been stripped from him.

Which is: control.

In its damning report, issued in October, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency made plain that Armstrong had "ultimate control" over his own drug use, and the doping culture of his team, which it made plain was the most sophisticated and well-run scheme in sports history.

In particular, he controlled -- there was a code of silence on his team -- the fact that he doped to win.

As it all came crashing down, Armstrong sent out by Twitter the photo of himself lying around with his seven framed Tour de France jerseys.

The message could not have been more clear: Lance, king of the Alps, believed he was still in control.

That was a fundamental miscalculation.

You can bet that he and his legal team were stunned not only to see the riders he thought were his guys turn against him but, more important, the breadth and depth of the file USADA made public.

That was the game-changer.

Now, with sponsors fleeing or gone, he has to try to assert control of his narrative.

Thus, Oprah.

But choosing the time, place and manner of your "admission" -- or whatever this turns out to be -- is not real.

What's real is testimony, delivered under oath, preferably subject to cross-examination. Anything else is just noise.

If you want to lie under those circumstances -- like Armstrong did in 2006, when in connection with a contract dispute brought by the Texas company SCA Promotions, Inc., relating to a 2004 Tour de France bonus payment -- then you get to face the consequences.

Which is one of the tap-dances Armstrong has to try to perform now, and why anything he tells Oprah ought to be measured against what he said under oath six years ago.

It's not enough to be apologetic, or deliver contrition, or offer a confession of sorts.

Now is the time for accountability.

It's this way when it goes bad on Wall Street and in lots of other areas of American life. The authorities can get involved, and they might or might not have their own ideas about your finances, sometimes even your liberty interest, and then you have to play by their rules, not yours.

This is how these things go. This is what USADA has made clear, and why -- according to the New York Times -- Armstrong is in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice to possibly testify in a federal whistle-blower case involving the U.S. Postal Service team.

It's not hard to figure out what USADA and the public authorities want to know: who funded the scheme and who else knew about it, and at what levels -- how high -- in international sport.

If you think about it, that thread of inquiry is not so different from the kind of thing you might find at your local courthouse. Imagine a drug case involving, say, methamphetamine or marijuana -- the cops and prosecutors are typically far more interested not just in the end user but in the financiers and in the protection.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee, which is even now engaged in a far-reaching review of the roughly two dozen sports on the Summer Games calendar, has to be looking at what is going on in cycling with renewed interest. Baseball was kicked off the Olympic program in no small measure because of doping-related issues.

If it seems far-fetched to imagine the Olympics without cycling, it does not seem like much of a stretch to imagine cycling's top officials under intense scrutiny in the coming weeks and months, with even their IOC privileges at issue. USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency both made plain Tuesday that they would offer no cooperation with an "independent commission" being set up by cycling's international governing body, which goes by the acronym UCI.

In the long run, the only thing that will clean up up the sport itself is, as USADA has proposed, a "Truth and Reconciliation" and amnesty program.

In the meantime, Armstrong is not going to get out of a lifetime ban by talking to Oprah. That's just -- ridiculous.

It's what he has to say when he's not on television that matters. And that's going to take a while yet to unfold.

That said, a read of the World Anti-Doping Code strongly suggests that even if he were to name names -- even big names -- the best he could do is, first, get a hearing and then, maybe, get life knocked down to eight years.

Armstrong is now 41. Eight years makes him 49.

Which sort of makes you wonder what the Oprah thing is really all about. And when, if ever, Lance Armstrong is going to tell the whole truth, and nothing but.

Because that would be a show worth watching.


Daniel Langinbelik's 1:12.52

SHANGHAI -- What 15-year-old Daniel Langinbelik accomplished here Wednesday is, in its way, every bit as great as what Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps or any other champion did, or will do, at the 2011 swimming world championships. Maybe, to be honest, more.

They ran 14 heats Wednesday morning of men's 100-meter freestyle. Daniel was entered in the very first of those 14. He got up on the blocks. The whistle blew. He didn't false start. He not only finished the two laps in the Olympic-sized pool -- he shaved some seven seconds off his previous best time, touching in 1:12.52, a fantastic display of courage and tenacity.

Afterward, Daniel couldn't believe a journalist wanted to talk to him. To begin, he said, he's shy. Moreover, he said, "I'm only in the ninth grade." Asked about the race, he did allow, "I'm happy."

Then, with the help of his coach, who arrived on the scene, he opened up. True, Daniel is only in the ninth grade. Beyond which, he turned 15 not even two weeks ago -- and until this week, he had never seen an escalator, or an elevator, or stayed in a hotel, or been on an airplane. Well, he might have seen them on television or in the movies but never himself experienced them in the Marshall Islands, which are way out there in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, where he lives.

There's always a world of difference at every championships between the stars, who justifiably get the headlines, and the swimmers who populate the early-morning heat sheets. Nowhere is that difference more pronounced than the 100-meter free, because freestyle is the easiest stroke to teach, no matter where in the world you might be.

Daniel's time, 1:12.52, ended up being the 103rd best time of the 105 guys who finished the race, a full 39.11 seconds behind the day's top qualifier, William Meynard of France, who touched in 48.14.

In this instance, it only proves the point.

FINA, swimming's world governing body, understandably has an interest in promoting the sport anywhere and everywhere. So it underwrites a program to bring such swimmers to championship and other meets. This does two things. One, athletes get to compete against their peers, which should make them all better. Two, it promotes what's called "universality," a term of Olympic jargon that means, more or less, we're all in this together.

The Marshall Islands are but dots on the map of the Pacific. The islands' Olympic committee wasn't even created until 2001; the International Olympic Committee took another five years to then formally recognize it. The Marshall Islands swim team here numbers four -- three swimmers and a coach, Amy LaCost, 43, a merchant ship captain, who swam at Kankakee (Ill.) High School and is a Texas A&M grad.

The other two swimmers on the team -- Giordan Harris, 18, and Ann-Marie Hepler, 15 -- are, in comparison to Daniel, grizzled veterans. Giordan and Ann-Marie, who compete in both butterfly and freestyle events, have been swimming since each was 3 years old; both, for instance, swam at the short-course world championships in Dubai last December.

Daniel just started swimming a couple years ago, and then because some friends were at the pool.

There is a pool on Ebeye Island, with a population of about 15,000 people, where Daniel lives with his two brothers, a sister and his parents. He's the youngest of the family.

The pool is hardly the Olympic-sized 50 meters. It's 25 yards. Also, it's a salt-water pool. That's because the salt water comes from the ocean.

Once a week, they pump the water in from the sea. "So getting used to swimming in meters [as opposed to yards] and in fresh water, where you sink, is important to us," said LaCost, the coach.

It took a full two and a half days for LaCost and her crew to get to Shanghai from the islands, making airplane connections through Guam and then Japan. They're staying here at a Ramada, nothing particularly fancy. FINA is helping to underwrite the cost of the trip, about $14,000 in all.

They've seen some of the sights in Shanghai. To say it's a little different here than Ebeye would be the gentlest of understatements.

On Tuesday night, at the pool, Daniel watched Phelps and Lochte go head to head in the 200 free. He saw two French racers, Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius, tie for the title in the 100 backstroke. He was thrilled by the action.

"He's going to go home and tell 10 to 20 kids what he has seen and everything he has experienced," LaCost said, beaming. "It's one thing when you're in the middle of practice and you're wondering what the pay-off for all that hard work is. Now he can see it, and now he can tell these other kids, and then maybe we can get them to come out and do this, too.

"That's what the investment is all about.," she said. "That's what all of this is all about.

"I couldn't be more proud of him. Just couldn't be more proud."

A keen IOC mission statement

The Olympic movement is and always will be something of a contradiction in terms. It is not, purely speaking, a business. It is a club based in Switzerland that counts about 110 members; through secret votes, those members allocate a franchise that decamps to different cities around the world for a 17-day stay every other year. That description both accounts for and thoroughly ignores reality. The Olympic movement encompasses fantastic business attributes. Worldwide, it is a sponsor- and broadcast-driven commercial proposition now worth well over $1 billion annually. Moreover, a Games serves as the catalyst for infrastructure, development and, as is typical in the case of a Summer Olympics, urban renewal projects worth billions of dollars more.

Underpinning all of it is a philosophy that separates the movement from every other major sports concern. All other big-time sports exist for two reasons -- to crown champions and to make money. The Olympic movement is a non-profit enterprise animated by high-minded ideals.

How, then, would you set out to describe for a highly knowledgeable audience exactly where the Olympic movement is now, and where it's going?

That was the challenge facing the Olympic Games' executive director, Gilbert Felli, when he was asked to present a report to the just-concluded 123rd International Olympic Committee session in Durban, South Africa -- that is, to the members themselves.

Felli's 11-page report, now circulating more widely, makes for one of the most remarkably articulated mission statements ever drafted by or about the IOC. Each of the 11 pages is charged with a keen understanding of what the IOC is, what it's doing, why it's doing it and where it's heading.

Throughout, there are gems -- not only stuff that's straightforward but said straight-out, in the way such things need to be said, frankly. On page four, for instance, Felli notes, "To be appealing, the Games must be the prime event in young people's heads. Regular investments must be made in the way the event is staged, broadcast and shared through the various media platforms. The program must also evolve with time. A good example is the way new events have been recently added to the Sochi 2014 program," and that is a perfect example, the IOC adding slopestyle, among other events.

Historians studying the IOC in these early years of the 21st century may well turn to this document as a -- if not the -- basic marker. It's that good.

Because it's so good, I'm going to quote at length from what is entitled the "introduction" to the report. A big-picture overview, the "introduction" deservedly carries on for more than a full page in the document itself. Here goes:

"The Olympic Games are in constant evolution. Just like any child, they grow through several stages in life. As they become more mature, they adapt to an ever-evolving context, and present new, sometimes unexpected, challenges and opportunities. What is sure, though, is that the Olympic Games are continuing to be extremely healthy and successful. Their magic is now shared with more people than ever, while their staging has come out of difficult economic times with little impact.

"The IOC, together with its key partners and stakeholders, should take great pride in having consistently delivered a series of very successful Olympic Games, sometimes in very challenging circumstances. The IOC can also congratulate itself by offering the youth of the world a new, inspiring event: the Youth Olympic Games.

"The successful staging of two major events in 2010 [meaning the Vancouver Winter Games and the Singapore Youth Games] is no stroke of good fortune. It is the direct result of all the energy expended to develop new tools and processes, to establish strong but evolving partnerships with the organizers and to deliver a rich transfer of knowledge program.

"… [T]he reality of the Games has changed significantly. The Games inspire millions of athletes and even more fans across continents, cultures, ages or ethnic groups. They continue to break down barriers and bring people together. Today, the Games have really extended out of the competition venues and TV screens to play a much wider and more significant role than ever before. They now integrate new technologies to be shared with more people. They compete with more events and leisure activities. They involve more stakeholders and public partners who are all key players in the preparation and staging of the events. Much interest is at stake around the Games.

"The Games are also perceived differently by a number of our stakeholders. Public partners now perceive more fully the potential of the Games to change the face of a city, to inspire an entire nation, to upgrade the host city's public services or generate lasting legacies for host communities. With recent and current organizers, we see that the [magic] of the Games extends far beyond the field of play.

"We have also come to realize how thin the margin can be between success and failure. What sometimes looks very promising can easily turn into a sour situation to manage either for economic, political or other reasons often out of our reach and control. Hence the need to further develop our risk management approach, tailored to each and every Games context.

"The Games bring new challenges but also a wealth of opportunities. They force us not only to observe carefully the world around us and the various trends in leisure and physical activities, media consumption, public health or applied sustainability, but also to constantly innovate and challenge ourselves to optimize the product and experience. Such are the conditions for the Games to remain relevant and successful in the years to come."

Awaiting the secrets of the "Richard W. Pound Olympic Collection"

The University of Texas at Austin has announced that it will collaborate with Montreal's McGill University to digitize the "Richard W. Pound Olympic Collection," and the only bummer is that it's going to take a good long while to see what's in the 400,000 pages that fill 350 or so boxes. Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency chief and International Olympic Committee vice-president, is of course well known within Olympic circles for his candor and wit. So there's bound to be some juicy stuff in those boxes.

The collection, which marks a remarkable coup for the Texas Program in Sports and Media, includes not only Pound's papers, among them some 700 printed titles, but his computer files, pretty much anything and everything relating to his years at the Canadian Olympic Committee, the IOC and WADA, dating back to the late 1960s.

Let's see. The investigation into the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. The founding of WADA. The boom years of U.S. marketing and television rights.

And more.

"I don't want this thrown in some vault where it's not used," Pound said in a telephone interview. "The purpose is to have available for scholars a resource that is probably unique in North America, perhaps the world …

"The further advantage is because it's mine it's not subject to the organizational limitations," meaning for instance IOC rules about mandatory waits that run to the decades to see certain materials, such as the minutes of executive board meetings.

Now the cautionary note to all this.

There is still going to be some waiting. It's likely going to take months, maybe years, before anyone sees any of this stuff in any significant detail.

Think about how long it takes you to scan stuff on your own home computer. Now think of scanning 400,000 pages. That's what "digitizing" means.

Moreover, some of this stuff is bound to be sensitive; there are bound to be reputation interests that come up. The University of Texas has really good lawyers on staff, and the University of Texas is simply not going to open these files up to just anyone when it might be sued for doing so.

Now, for another of the interesting corollary questions.

Why Texas?

After all, Pound would seem to have no obvious connection to Texas, or to Austin.

Three reasons.

One, they think creatively there. Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate papers, for instance, are now in Austin.

Two, they have resource. In January, ESPN and the university said they would be launching a new network dedicated solely to all things UT. The deal is worth $300 million over 20 years. The "Longhorn Network," as it will be called, is due to go live later this year.

Three, they have vision. The Texas Program in Sports and Media, announced in late 2009, would seem poised to become an Olympic study center of a sort the United States has arguably never had. (Disclosure: I saw it for myself first-hand last month, invited to Austin to speak to journalism and law school students.)

"The Pound Collection is a gem and will be a great asset to scholars and researchers studying the interface of sports, business, law, broadcast rights and the culture of sports media," said Steven Ungerleider, the program's chair who is also a psychologist and author of the 2001 book "Faust's Gold," an insightful study of the East German sports doping system.

As ever, the last word here ought to go to Pound. When the files finally do get opened up, he said. referring to the IOC, "You can find out whether they served croissants or fruitcake for 30 years."

Lindsey Van is a hero, too

It is perhaps Lindsey Van's lot in life that her name sounds a lot like Lindsey Vonn's, and while Lindsey Van is a world-champion ski jumper and her sport isn't even in the Olympics -- not yet, anyway -- Lindsey Vonn is an alpine racer and an Olympic gold-medalist who gets loads of attention and commercials and even a spot on "Law and Order" and generally gets treated like the American hero she is. But Lindsey Van is a hero, too.

Lindsey Van, the 2009 ski-jumping world champion, spent Monday in San Francisco with a needle in her right arm and another in her left.  One needle sucked blood out of her. The other put it back into her. Her blood will help save the life of a man she has never met.

All she knows about him is that he is 49 years old and has leukemia.

Any number of athletes talk a good game about doing the right thing. Then there is someone like Lindsey Van, who submitted herself to nasty drugs and endured the discomfort if not outright pain of a procedure that no one forced her to do -- that she did because it was simply the honorable and decent thing to do.

"I just think," she said beforehand, in an interview from Park City, Utah, where she lives, "it's the human thing to do."

She also said, "If my family was sick, if I was sick -- I would want someone to donate for me or my family. If you want to expect a transplant, you have to elect to give one. You have to donate yourself."

Such simple logic, such elemental humanity, and yet there is all the more dignity in the story because, after all, the rules are that Lindsey doesn't know who she's donating to.

This, though, didn't exactly start that way.

Lindsey's former roommate, Seun Adebiyi, had been diagnosed with a rare leukemia.

He needed a bone-marrow transplant.

He tried, and he searched. But he could not find a match. Naturally enough, he turned to his friends, and asked them to sign up for a donation registry.

So Lindsey did -- at a website called, which coordinates potential bone-marrow donors.

It turned out she was not a match for Seun.

As it turned out, she said, about a year ago, Sean did get a transplant, and he seems to be getting better.

Meanwhile, she said, after signing up at the website, she got a call. Did she want to follow through?

This is where the story turns. Instead of saying, no, I was in this only for Seun -- Lindsey said, sure, of course, I am glad to help.

Be the Match sent her a cheek swab; she sent it back.

At this point -- really, at any point -- she could have withdrawn her name from the registry.

That, though, was never really an option for Lindsey. Once she was in, she was in.

And then came another call: you're a perfect match, they said, for this 49-year-old man.

The rules don't permit Lindsey to meet him on the grounds that he -- like all recipients -- should focus strictly on recovery.

The timing, as it were, couldn't have turned out better. The 2011 ski-jump championships were held in February, in Norway, so the season was essentially over.

The International Olympic Committee is widely expected in the coming weeks to announce it will add women's ski jumping to the program for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. But because women's ski jumping is not yet formally part of the Olympic program, the blood-boosting drugs that Lindsey had to take last week at home in Utah to get her system ready for donation Monday in San Francisco -- well, none of that formally had to be of any concern to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Last week, in Park City, the doctors' orders were to sit around and do not much, to let the drugs do their thing. There was time to be philosophical.

"There's life outside sport," Lindsey was saying on the phone. "You have to be thankful for what you have. You have to give back. If it's something big like this -- ok, awesome. If it's something little, that's awesome, too.

"Life is bigger than sport. His life will change because of this. So for me -- why not jump on it?"

On Monday in San Francisco, the needles were in Lindsey's arms by 6:30 in the morning. She spent the next three hours watching her blood go out, and in, and spin -- that is, to a machine that spun her blood around and around, multiple times separating out plasma and stem cells, the stuff that will go into a 49-year-old man she has never met.

"I was feeling pretty good," she said afterward, though "a little strange after having been on the machine for hours."

There were supposed to be multiple sessions on the needles. But the technicians got all they needed from Lindsey that first time -- perhaps the benefit of being a world-class athlete.

"I plan to start training again, doing active activities, yoga and skiing again this week," she said. "It wasn't even a week of down time for me.

"If you consider that somebody who's going to receive what they took out of me has been sick for a very long time -- I really don't think this has been too much to ask.

"Really, I don't."