Armstrong ‘humbled, ashamed’ by doping scandal

Fallen American cyclist Lance Armstrong said in an interview that he was “humbled” and “ashamed” by the years he spent lying about using performance-enhancing drugs.

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“I feel ashamed. Yeah, this is ugly stuff,” Armstrong told talkshow host Oprah Winfrey, adding that the “most humbling moment” was when he was asked to step down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer charity. “It hurt like hell.”

In part two of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong talks about the impact his years of lying about doping has had on his family, sponsors and fellow cancer survivors.

Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner before those victories were stripped from him after a mountain of evidence unveiled his cheating, confessed to doping in part one of the interview on Thursday.

Winfrey, chosen by Armstrong to conduct the exclusive interview, ensured a double ratings boost for her OWN cable channel by breaking the video into two parts, but the broadcast failed to win much sympathy for the fallen icon.

Clips showed Armstrong would in the second part talk about his future, how his family had to face the truth about his conduct, his reaction when sponsors dropped him and the most humbling moment of his epic fall from grace.

“I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people,” Armstrong said in part one of the interview, which was watched by an estimated 3.2 million television viewers in the United States.

Part one of the face to face confession — which was also streamed on Oprah.com — failed to win sympathy for Armstrong who previously withdrew from his role with Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded.

The patients he inspired with his rise from testicular cancer survivor to Tour de France winner from 1999-2005, meanwhile, are dealing with the admission that the cyclist’s fairy-tale story was built upon “one big lie”.

“They have every right to feel betrayed and it’s my fault,” he said, but offering few specifics on people involved in his doping program and apologizing in a matter-of-fact manner that his critics said showed no sign of remorse or regret at anything more than being caught.

“We were given a calculated public relations exercise with clearly rehearsed answers,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said.

World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey told Fox News Australia that Armstrong’s confession was a “controlled public relations” stunt that only confirmed the details a US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) probe had revealed.

Armstrong denied forcing teammates into doping, denied having paid off the International Cycling Union (UCI) to cover up a positive drug test and spoke supportively of Michele Ferrari, an Italian doctor banned for life from cycling for doping links.

Such comments gave little hope that Armstrong would become the ultimate whistleblower and reveal details of others who might have aided his doping.

“If he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities,” USADA chief Travis Tygart said.

Such a revelation might be the only way Armstrong can see a reduction in a life ban on sports that fall under WADA jurisdiction, including triathlon, which Armstrong turned to after cycling only to be banned after USADA’s doping investigation was made public.

“You can’t dope as he did over the years without help,” Prudhomme said. “We (the Tour de France) have long said that a rider shouldn’t be the only one to pay the price.”

Armstrong has not admitted doping beyond the 2005 Tour, potentially opening a door to having his ban trimmed to eight years to provide reinstatement in 2013. But that would likely require major revelations and Armstrong’s credibility as a witness would be far from strong given his years of lies.

The steep financial price that Armstrong has paid since being banned last years is likely to worsen further with his doping admission. He could be forced to return prize money and bonuses obtained from his victories.

He also faces a lawsuit from compatriot Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title after a positive doping test, and whose decision to speak out four years later ultimately triggered Armstrong’s downfall.

Landis claims Armstrong defrauded the American government when his cycling team took $30 million in sponsorship money from the US Postal Service because the team’s success was built upon cheating with performance-enhancing drugs.

Landis was a member of the US Postal squad with Armstrong from 2002 through 2004.


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Port not ill-disciplined: coach Hinkley

Port Adelaide don’t have a discipline problem despite losing a third player in three weeks to AFL suspension, coach Ken Hinkley says.

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And Hinkley says he won’t carpet the latest player to be banned, backman Tom Jonas, who was suspended for three games for a bump on St Kilda’s Dylan Roberton last weekend.

Jonas follows Kane Cornes and Justin Westhoff in being suspended.

Cornes last week was outed one match for a behind-play blow on Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell, while Westhoff was banned the week prior for striking Essendon’s Cale Hooker.

But Hinkley said he was only troubled by the Westhoff incident.

“The Westy (Westhoff) one was the disappointing one and I make no bones about that,” Hinkley told reporters on Thursday.

Jonas crossed a fine line between being aggressive and playing outside the laws, he said.

“Everyone knows the rules and the risks involved with the bump so we’re very mindful of that,” Hinkley said.

“But you have also got to be, as a coach, able to say he’s playing an aggressive style of football that you want him to play.

“At times, if you do go a little bit close to the edge, it (suspension) is probably going to happen.

“And we don’t want to have people suspended … we want everyone available to play. But it’s a contact game and there is going to be occasions where you can’t control some of it.

“It was a collision that was almost unavoidable to … I don’t think you can stop that – you have got to promote your players to play hard footy.”

Hinkley dismissed a suggestion that the three suspensions were evidence of discipline problems at Port, who host Brisbane on Sunday.

“I would have thought the opposite for us – certainly as a team, we totally understand what is expected of each other and they don’t want to let each other down,” he said.


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Supporters of ‘Kony 2012’ answer critics

The director of the viral video, ‘Kony 2012’ has defended a social media campaign which has sparked debate across the world.

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The video is also backed by a Ugandan minister who negotiated with the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Director Jason Russell agreed on Friday with skeptics who have called the film oversimplified, saying it was deliberately made that way.

The 30-minute YouTube film called “Kony 2012,” which by Friday had been viewed on YouTube more than 58 million times, aims to wake up the world to atrocities committed by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight.

Filmmaker Jason Russell’s nonprofit group, Invisible Children, tapped 12 influential policy makers and 20 celebrities with popular Twitter accounts, including Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, to spread the video. Since then, the company owned by powerful producer Harvey Weinstein has contacted Russell to buy the film.

The phenomenal success of the video, including the savvy media campaign with tweets about Kony, has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but has suffered some criticism including that it oversimplified a long-standing human rights crisis.

Russell, who narrates the video with a personal story that juxtaposes shots of his young son in San Diego, California with the hopelessness of Ugandan children, told Reuters on Friday the video was only meant as a kick-starter to a complicated issue.

“It definitely oversimplifies the issue. This video is not the answer, it’s just the gateway into the conversation. And we made it quick and oversimplified on purpose,” he said. “We are proud that it is simple. We like that. And we want you to keep investigating, we want you to read the history.”

UGANDAN MINISTER VOICES SUPPORT

Ugandan minister Betty Bigombe, who twice tried to negotiate peace deals with Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, said the US group that made the video should be doing more to help in Uganda.

“Invisible Children has brought it into bedrooms, into sitting rooms and places, but we would like to see them do something tangible, on the ground, in Uganda,” Bigombe, Uganda’s minister for water resources, told AFP on the sidelines of a UN meeting.

“It has increased awareness in the world, with youth, with everybody.”

The hashtag “#stopkony,” about the fugitive LRA head has surged on Twitter since the release of the 30-minute video by Invisible Children, a California-based advocacy group. The video has been viewed by over 40 million people in just three days.

“I remember when I came to the US and the media said, ‘Well these kind of topics does not appeal to our kind of audience,'” Bigombe said.

As state minister for northern Uganda in the 1990s, Bigombe tried to negotiate a peace deal with Kony following the failure of army efforts to defeat the rebel group. She launched a new attempt in 2004-05. The LRA backed out of each effort.

The US presidency and a string of celebrities have backed the Invisible Children. But the group has been criticized for using funds raised — some 70 percent or more by some accounts — for salaries, travel expenses and filmmaking.

UN political affairs chief B. Lynn Pascoe said he had been “extraordinarily impressed” by the video campaign.

“One of our biggest problems with the LRA and dealing with the LRA has been getting attention to it so I think it has been very good,” Pascoe told a press conference.

REACTIONS IN UGANDA

Mixed reactions in Uganda include criticism that the attention has come too late, that much of the armed conflict in the area has subsided and the film leaves out that the Ugandan military is often accused of committing the same atrocities as Kony’s fighters. In addition, Kony is believed to have long since fled Uganda and now only commands a few hundred followers.

“Kony has been indicted, that’s what we are saying. It doesn’t matter if he has three fighters, 300 or 3,000. That’s not the issue,” Russell said. The group’s aim is to get Kony to surrender and be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where Kony is under indictment.

“He needs to face justice and we want to give him the choice to surrender,” Russell said.

Invisible Children also has faced questions about its governance in light of financial statements showing a large proportion of funds were used for travel and film production rather than charity work. The non-profit group published its financial statements this week amid rising scrutiny.

“They hear the word charity and they don’t understand why all of our money isn’t going to Central Africa,” Russell said. “We have found that putting money towards our media and our movie, changes lives. And in that life change, it has tangible results into a movement … that movement does galvanize the mission.”

Others have said the problem needed to be solved within Uganda rather than a viral campaign watched by viewers who may not understand the situation on the ground.

To that criticism, Russell said: “We don’t think Americans should be the world police, that is not what we are advocating. We want to continue to put pressure on the policy makers, on the (U.S.) President to keep really hyper-focused on this issue.”

The video begins with the slogan, “Nothing Is More Powerful Than An Idea” and references the strength of social media sites like Facebook that can help spur immediate action. The campaign has urged supporters of the movement to “blanket every street, every city” on April 20.

The success of the video has shocked the non-profit group even though they prepared for its launch on Tuesday with a five-day lead in campaign beforehand, said Russell.

Initially, he aimed for 500,000 YouTube viewers. Now, plans include a global dance party and other fundraising events.

“We were not prepared for this type of response because it has been a whirlwind,” he said. “To us, it is the world waking up … it is a global revolution.”


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Assange gets Aboriginal passport

His father, John Shipton, accepted the document at a Darlington celebration today.

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He says his son’s been jilted by the Australian government, and the passport ceremony – which follows Ecuador’s decision to grant Mr Assange diplomatic asylum – is a show of solidarity.

Indigenous Social Justice Association president Ray Jackson says the Australian government hasn’t given Mr Assange sufficient aid.

The passport will be sent to Mr Assange in London in the next few days.

John Shipton, Assange’s biological father, said he spoke frequently with the 41-year-old who won asylum from Ecuador to escape extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault allegations.

“He’s in a small room… and in that he has a treadmill and a sunlamp,” he told AFP in Sydney’s Redfern where he had accepted an Aboriginal Nations passport, for use when travelling within Australia, on behalf of his son.

“But he faces his future with equanimity. He says he may have to spend 12 months in this situation. I think that he’s prepared himself for his long meditation.”

Shipton, 68, said his son was still pressing ahead with his plans to run for the Australian Senate in the national election due next year, and had asked his father to write the constitution for his yet-to-be founded political party.

Sydney-based Shipton said he felt Australians were “genuinely concerned and moved” by the plight of Assange and the work of WikiLeaks, which has published hundreds of thousands of documents online, including confidential United States State Department emails.

He said he had spoken to Assange about the Aboriginal Nationals passport — used for travel through Aboriginal lands in the country.

“This occasion is a further opportunity to generate support for Julian’s situation,” he said.

“The irony is it’s a great help to bring to notice to people that the situation is well, very questionable, morally very questionable.

“The (Australian) foreign minister could do a little more. Although he says he has done a lot, he won’t speak to me.”

Shipton, who said he had always kept in touch with Assange’s mother but had little contact with his son from when he was three until his twenties, spoke of his pride in Assange, a former computer hacker.

“I am astounded, absolutely astounded. And each day more impressed,” he said.

“He seems as though he handles himself at those rarefied atmospheres really quite well.

“It must have taken a great deal of suffering to have learned so quickly how to move amongst those people… and not display fear when the whole American empire wishes to crush you.”

But Shipton won’t be watching a new movie about Assange’s earlier life called “Underground: The Julian Assange Story” which is set to screen on Australian television early next month. He doesn’t have a television.


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