All sport must learn a lesson

Adelaide’s shame: Lance Armstrong at the Tour Down Under.THERE was little, surely, if anything in the Lance Armstrong interview to surprise. So much had already been learnt that the latest instalment on Saturday was merely selective confirmation. And the denials – from an admitted self-interested, serial liar – can’t be assumed to be truthful anyway.
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Perhaps what this event might achieve is to cause those who have for so long swallowed Armstrong’s lies to ask themselves why. The evidence against him – if until recently circumstantial – has long been compelling. And it might prompt all who work in the industry of sport to confront the matter of what they can do better to seek to ensure this story is not repeated.

This is an important moment in sport’s history. Each new big catch in the war on drugs brings a new level of awareness at every level. While it doesn’t last, it does at least deliver a short-to-medium-term jolt. The Ben Johnson case shook a still-largely naive sporting world from its slumber. The waves spread as far afield as Australia where a parliamentary inquiry was held.

The Balco scandal has clearly had a significant impact on the psyche of some American sport in relation to performance-enhancing drugs. If you doubt that, compare the US’s recent Olympic track and field sprinting results with those of a decade or more ago.

Then there was the exposure of the erstwhile East Germany’s Stasi files and what they revealed of the capacity for a rogue nation’s administration to systemically rort sport. At least the world is now alert to this possibility.

As an aside, if there was humour in Friday’s interview it came in Armstrong’s use of the history of East German drug abuse to shield himself from USADA’s claim that his was the worst case yet. Here was a seriously charred pot seeking to claim some sheen by comparison with the nearby black kettle.

The name David Walsh, the Irish journalist who pursued the Armstrong story, and whose paper was sued by the cyclist, has been particularly prominent in recent days. During last week, in an interview on ABC television, he stated a couple of telling facts.

Of the period during which he investigated Armstrong, he said: ”What was astonishing was how few wanted to hear the truth at that time.” The other ear-catching comment Walsh made was that: ”There were good people: Emma O’Reilly, Greg Lemonde, Betsy Andreu … the truth wasn’t too hard to get at.” The truth wasn’t too hard to get at! What a damning indictment those words are on the Armstrong acolytes who claim they didn’t know, or were misled. Too many among the sport’s travelling media contingent were comfortable aboard the gravy train. Regardless of professional responsibility, they didn’t want to bite the hand that fed them.

Walsh has also previously said: ”To me there was a wilful conspiracy on the part of sporting officials, journalists, broadcasters, everybody.” Speaking for the media, I would say there are many in this industry who should hang their heads.

They have allowed themselves to be in the thrall of a superstar. That was more exciting, and more comfortable, than serving the responsibilities and ideals of their profession.

There is no place in modern sport for journalists and broadcasters to function purely as fans. This is a business and has to be treated as such. Sport has always produced those on the side of the angels, but there are plenty prepared to do the devil’s work. They actively corrupt their own industry. This cannot be taken lightly and those privileged with a role in media must be always on the look-out for sport’s criminals. And that – make no mistake – is what they are.

Then there are those associated with the sport whose stock response is along the lines that, ”Cycling is no worse than lots of other sports. It’s just the one being picked on at the moment.” This is a frequently heard lament to which I would respond: ”So how do you know about the other sports?”

And if you know about them, how much did you know about cycling – the sport in which you specialise – before Armstrong was caught? Why did you do nothing?” The shame of Armstrong spreads all the way to Australia. In recent years he has been handsomely paid by South Australian taxpayers – scandalously is a better word – to compete in the Tour Down Under. That he was clearly under suspicion before arrangements for this were made does the organisers of the event no credit. That race director Mike Turtur referred on television during the week to Armstrong’s ”great record … that we ought to acknowledge” is damning. Perhaps rather than complaining that his state is entitled to its money back, SA Premier Jay Weatherill should set about providing some education for those he employs. Because even though he wasn’t premier at the time, responsibility for his state paying big money to a crook rests with his administration.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Merewether, Uni post outright victories

MEREWETHER and University increased pressure on Hamilton-Wickham in the race for the Newcastle district cricket minor premiership today after recording outright victories.
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Merewether (67 points) flogged Belmont outright at Townson Oval to move within a point of Hamwicks (68), who only won bya first innings against Cardiff-Boolaroo, due to a century from Englishman Tom Jewell.

University moved to 60 points through a emphatic victory over Wallsend at University Oval.

Hamwicks were their own worst enemies at Passmore Oval with poor fielding costing them dearly.

Cardiff resumed day two at 1-10 and fell to 3-10 in a disastrous start.

Opener Joe Wenta (44) Jewell (109) and Ray Cooper (34) then rescued Cardiff to post 226.

That left Hamwicks with the impossible task of scoring 119 from seven overs for maximum points.

Hamwicks batted for four overs before calling stumps at 3-34.

‘‘You look at the table in the paper but if Merewether win there isn’t much we can do about it or anyone else in the competition,’’ Hamwicks skipper Kirk Mullard said.

‘‘We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and the only time we worry about Merewether is when we play them.’’

Merewether recorded their third outright of the season after declaring their first innings close at 4-187 with a lead of 68.

Belmont made 133 in their second innings, leaving the Lions (4-69) 33 overs to chase 66.

University declared overnight at 5-254, a lead of 176.

Wallsend held hope of saving the game at 4-104 with skipper Brett Jackson at the crease, but his teammates left him stranded on 66 not out in the team’s total of 176.

That left Uni with one run to score for the outright win.

Toronto Workers (7-259 and 1-15) fell four runs short of earning their first outright win of the season against Waratah-Mayfield (135 and 141) at Waratah Oval.

Toronto had two overs to score 18 runs in the second innings and required six off the final ball, but only managed three.

Stockton-Raymond Terrace also missed their chance to beat Newcastle City outright at No.1 Sportsground which would have pushed them into the top four.

City started the day 4-78 and were quickly rolled for 128.

The Seagulls swooped on the opportunity when Jeff Goninan (52) and Sam Jenkinson (68 not out) batted Stockton into a dominant position at 2-154.

City hung on to avoid the outright loss at 7-116.

At Kahibah Oval, Charlestown (207) produced an improved batting performance in their loss to Wests (238).

Daniel Arms (51) and Daniel Whittemore (37) impressed, but Wests veterans Ben Woolmer (3-42) and Anthony Hobson (3-34) were the difference.

Charlestown batsman Daniel Whittemore in action against Wests at Kahibah oval today. Picture: Ryan Osland

Rogers rolls the dice

Jaw-dropping: V8 Supercars team owner Garry Rogers has signed (from left) Scott McLaughlin, Alex Premat, Jack Perkins and Greg Ritter.COLOURFUL V8 Supercars team owner Garry Rogers is renowned for taking risks on untried drivers, but his decision last year to sign Frenchman Alex Premat was especially quirky.
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Rogers excels at spotting nascent talent, giving a disproportionate number of leading drivers their starts in V8 racing.

He has always swum against the tide of picking proven performers, betting on teen tyros or outcasts. But even by Rogers’ unconventional standards, Melbourne-based Premat was a choice so far out of left field it was regarded as a reckless gamble.

After all, V8 Supercars has a history of humbling even the most accomplished and experienced international drivers, who struggle to come to grips with heavy cars that are undertyred and overpowered.

Although Premat (pronounced pray-mah) was accomplished in European sports car racing and competitive in Germany’s high-tech V8 touring car series, his chances of adapting successfully were further hampered by not being in a front-running car. Garry Rogers Motorsport punches above its weight, occasionally emerging from the midfield to challenge the top 10, but it doesn’t have the resources to make its Holden Commodores consistent front-runners.

Predictably, Premat, 30, failed to make much of an impression last season, most of which he spent towards the rear of the field or coming off second best in altercations with the hardened local competition.

When Rogers suspended him from the car-wrecking Gold Coast 600, his prospects of retaining the drive this year looked hopeless.

But far from a French flop, Rogers is convinced Premat’s disappointing rookie season wasn’t a wasted effort, pointing to his end-of-season improvement as a sign of progress.

Confounding his critics, he has re-signed Premat to partner New Zealand teenager Scott McLaughlin in GRM’s Fujitsu Racing Commodores.

”Alex was a gamble last year and he struggled,” Rogers said. ”There was no doubt he has the skills, but we didn’t get the best out of him. I was disappointed – based on his history, we believed he could do better.

”I decided I had invested a lot in him and he has invested in us, moving his family over here. We can get more out of him.”

Rogers also cited the switch to the new Car Of The Future rules as a key factor, believing the design changes will suit Premat’s European racing pedigree. Among a host of under-the-skin changes, the new-generation V8 Supercars feature better tyres, bigger brakes and a more sophisticated rear suspension, designed to make them more responsive and less cumbersome.

Their driving characteristics are closer to the sophisticated V8-powered Audis that Premat raced in the German Touring Car Masters series for four years.

As well as being better suited to his racing experience, Premat believes the change to Car Of The Future means he won’t be so disadvantaged when the new season starts at the March 1-3 Adelaide 500.

”I have set my expectations to finish in the top 10,” Premat said. ”Everyone will be learning [the new cars] from zero and we will be doing the same. I want to start the year as I finished in 2012 and I’m looking forward to the new season.” While he is looking to Premat to justify his reappointment, Rogers is again investing in the future with 19-year-old McLaughlin, who won the second-tier V8 development series last year.

McLaughlin is the latest in a long line of young drivers who began their rise to V8 stardom with GRM, based at Dandenong South in Melbourne’s south-east.

Celebrating his 50th anniversary in racing this year, Rogers, 68, counts among his many finds reigning V8 champion Jamie Whincup, who is also the source of his greatest embarrassment.

”Over the years, we’ve had many great drivers in the team,” Rogers said. ”I have also proved to be an idiot when I sacked Jamie Whincup – not one of my better decisions.” Whincup didn’t impress Rogers in 2003, but he has since developed into V8’s most dominant driver, winning four championships and four Bathurst 1000s with the pace-setting Triple Eight squad.

Rogers has also confirmed that Jack Perkins and Greg Ritter have been re-signed as Fujitsu Racing’s co- drivers for the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 endurance races.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

S&P 500 takes aim at all-time highs

With earnings momentum on the rise, the S&P 500 seems to have few hurdles ahead as it continues to power higher, its all-time high a not-so-distant goal.
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The US equity benchmark closed the week at a fresh five-year high on strong housing and labor market data and a string of earnings that beat lowered expectations.

Sector indexes in transportation, banks and housing this week hit historic or multiyear highs as well.

Michael Yoshikami, chief executive at Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California, said the key earnings to watch for next week will come from cyclical companies. United Technologies reports on Wednesday while Honeywell is due to report Friday.

“Those kind of numbers will tell you the trajectory the economy is taking,” Yoshikami said.

Major technology companies also report next week, but the bar for the sector has been lowered even further.

Chipmakers like Advanced Micro Devices, which is due Tuesday, are expected to underperform as PC sales shrink.

AMD shares fell more than 10 per cent Friday after disappointing results from its larger competitor, Intel. Still, a chipmaker sector index posted its highest weekly close since last April.

Following a recent underperformance, an upside surprise from Apple on Wednesday could trigger a return to the stock from many investors who had abandoned ship.

Other major companies reporting next week include Google, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and DuPont on Tuesday, Microsoft and 3M on Thursday and Procter & Gamble on Friday.

Perhaps the strongest support for equities will come from the flow of cash from fixed income funds to stocks.

The recent piling into stock funds – $US11.3 billion in the past two weeks, the most since 2000 – indicates a riskier approach to investing from retail investors looking for yield.

“From a yield perspective, a lot of stocks still yield a great deal of money and so it is very easy to see why money is pouring into the stock market,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco. “You are just not going to see people put a lot of money to work in a 10-year Treasury that yields 1.8 per cent.”

Housing stocks, already at a 5-1/2 year high, could get a further bump next week as investors eye data expected to support the market’s perception that housing is the sluggish US economy’s bright spot.

Home resales are expected to have risen 0.6 per cent in December, data is expected to show on Tuesday. Pending home sales contracts, which lead actual sales by a month or two, hit a 2-1/2 year high in November.

The new home sales report on Friday is expected to show a 2.1 per cent increase.

The federal debt ceiling negotiations, a nagging worry for investors, seemed to be stuck on the back burner after House Republicans signaled they might support a short-term extension.

Equity markets, which tumbled in 2011 after the last round of talks pushed the United States close to a default, seem not to care much this time around.

The CBOE volatility index, a gauge of market anxiety, closed Friday at its lowest since April 2007.

“I think the market is getting somewhat desensitized from political drama given, this seems to be happening over and over,” said Destination Wealth Management’s Yoshikami. “It’s something to keep in mind, but I don’t think it’s what you want to base your investing decisions on.”

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Boeing halts delivery of Dreamliners

US aerospace giant Boeing has halted deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner but says it will continue to build the aircraft while safety experts examine its battery and electrical systems.
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The announcement capped a week in which all 50 787s in service around the world were grounded on orders from multiple aviation authorities to investigate the cause of two incidents, including a fire, linked to its batteries.

‘‘We will not deliver 787s until the FAA approves a means of compliance with their recent Airworthiness Directive concerning batteries and the approved approach has been implemented,’’ a Boeing spokesman said. ‘‘Production of 787s continues.”

Dreamliners had been flying in Chile, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Poland, Qatar and the United States until their flights were stopped after a global alert issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing’s chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney in a statement to employees defended his company and the aircraft against ‘‘the negative news attention over the past several days.’’

‘‘As everyone inside the company knows, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the passengers, pilots and crew members who fly aboard Boeing commercial and military aircraft,’’ he said. ‘‘We have high confidence in the safety of the 787 and stand squarely behind its integrity as the newest addition to our product family.’’

His comments came as US and Japanese experts began examining an All Nippon Airways 787 forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu in southwest Japan on Wednesday because of a smoke alert apparently linked to a lithium-ion battery, the plane’s main electrical power unit.

‘‘We removed the battery yesterday and are today inspecting the plane and its components, alongside the US officials,’’ said Japan Transport Safety Board spokesman Mamoru Takahashi.

A picture released by the JTSB showed scorch marks on the blue casing of the battery. Much of what looked like wiring around the eight cells of the battery – the plane’s main electrical power unit – was disfigured.

It was the second incident involving the battery, and one of several problems since the beginning of the year, including a taxiing 787 sprouting a fuel leak in Boston.

The problems have cast a cloud over the aircraft heavily dependent on pioneering electrical systems and lightweight composite materials that is meant to be Boeing’s future.

No airline has cancelled purchases for the 787, but with 850 of the ambitious $US200 million-plus aircraft on order, a fortune is at stake.

McNerney stressed that since they entered service in October 2011, 787s have completed 18,000 flights and 50,000 flight hours with no serious problems.

But US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told NBC television that the 787 would have to prove itself again to US inspectors.

‘‘Those planes won’t fly until we’re 1000 per cent sure they are safe to fly,’’ said LaHood on Friday.

The focus of investigators was on batteries supplied to Boeing by Japan’s GS Yuasa through France’s Thales, two of many firms in a complex global chain of suppliers for the 787 program.

JTSB investigator Hideyo Kosugi said one theory was that there may have been insufficient protection offered by the batteries’ surrounding electrical system.

‘‘I’m sure that too much current or too-high voltage has gone to the battery,’’ Kosugi told reporters.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.