Rugby prince but World Cup pauper
AUSTIN — With a payment and an apology, Lance Armstrong (pictured) has settled a decade-long dispute with a promotions company that sought repayment of more than $10 million in bonuses it paid the former cyclist during a career that was later exposed to be fueled by performanceenhancing drugs.
Dallas-based SCA Promotions first pursued evidence of doping against Armstrong in 2005. Although the company paid Armstrong in 2006, the testimony in its lawsuit and arbitration case helped lay the foundation for later doping charges that ultimately got Armstrong banned from the sport and stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories.
SCA demanded repayment in 2013 after Armstrong publicly admitted using steroids and other doping methods. Although Armstrong’s lawyers had insisted there was no legal ground for a “redo” on the previous voluntary settlement, an arbitration panel ordered Armstrong to pay a $10 million penalty for lying under oath in the original case.
“I am pleased to have this matter behind me and I look forward to moving on. I do wish to apologize to SCA and its (chief executive), Bob Hamman, for any misconduct on my part in connection with our dispute and the resulting arbitration,” Armstrong said in a statement Sunday to The Associated Press.
Armstrong did not reveal how much he paid SCA. Company officials confirmed the settlement in a statement, but declined to reveal details or comment further.
The SCA dispute was just one of several to hit Armstrong since his admission to doping. He previously settled a similar bonus payments dispute with Acceptance Insurance, which had sought $3 million.
Armstrong still faces a federal whistleblower lawsuit in which the federal government is seeking repayment of more than $30 million the US Postal Service paid to sponsor his teams from 1998-2004. Penalties in that case could reach the $100 million range. — AP LONDON — Bookmakers have lengthened the odds that European football boss Michel Platini will succeed Sepp Blatter as head of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, after Swiss prosecutors said they were investigating Blatter over a payment to Platini.
Blatter, head of FIFA since 1998, is due to step down in February as US and Swiss authorities investigate alleged corruption at the organisation in a scandal that has rocked the sport and upset its commercial sponsors.
Platini, a former French midfielder and head of European football body UEFA since 2007, had been odds-on favourite to be elected to succeed Blatter, meaning he was seen as likelier to get the job than not.
However, bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill have lengthened their odds on Platini getting the job.
“He is no longer odds-on favourite,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
According to Ladbrokes, the new oddson favourite is Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Platini has the strong support of a number of national football associations, especially in Europe. However, if he himself were to become the target of an investigation by FIFA’S ethics body, he could be suspended, making it impossible to stand.
— Reuters LONDON — Jean de Villiers once dryly remarked he had been to two World Cups and spent only two nights in the team hotel such has been his ill fortune with injuries at the rugby showpiece.
The 34-year-old dashing South African centre managed a few more nights this time, but on Sunday his third and final World Cup campaign and international career came to an end with a fractured jaw suffered in the Pool B game against Samoa.
“Jean is not only our captain and one of the most experienced players in the squad, but he is also the glue of this team and to lose him is very sad,” said coach Heyneke Meyer.
His fate and that of Meyer’s were indelibly linked, especially after Japan inflicted the greatest upset in World Cup history a 34-32 victory last week.
As usual De Villiers, just as he did on the 109 occasions he donned the green Springbok jersey, did not shirk his part in the traumatic defeat.
“We are a very proud nation. What saddens me is to see how a loss like this can break the country apart,” he said on the eve of the Samoa game.
“Rugby is a game, but in South Africa it has become so much more than just a game and we carry that responsibility with us every single time we enter the field,” added De Villiers, whose appearance at the World Cup was a little miracle because of his repeat injuries.
He had feared he would never walk again after a serious knee injury suffered in November last year. Having recovered from that he broke his jaw a first time in August.
The father of three children, who married his university sweetheart Marlie, can look back on a career that brought him recognition as one of the finest centres in the world and 27 Test tries.
However the World Cup cupboard — in which most great players would wish to leave a mark — is bare thanks to a rot- ten timing of injuries.
De Villiers — whose Test debut in 2002 lasted just seven minutes before suffering a serious knee injury — missed the 2003 edition because of a shoulder injury, and the most bitter of all a biceps injury in the first pool game of the 2007 tournament resulted in him missing the victory in the final although he stayed with the squad and received a medal at the ceremony.
“It was a very empty feeling,” he told the Guardian last year.
“I’m fortunate to have a World Cup winners’ medal but I don’t think I deserved it. I was very happy for the team and my friends but I was empty inside.
“I never look at the medal now.”
In 2011 he injured a rib in the opening game and only returned for the final pool match before playing in the losing quarterfinal to Australia.
Out of the wreckage of his own World Cup experiences, De Villiers will have to make do with the one World Cup memory he and the whole of the nation treasures.
The emotional win at home over favourites New Zealand in 1995, principally because of the image of post-apartheid president Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to white captain Francois Pienaar in a sport seen as the last preserve of the white minority.
“I was only 14 years old when we won the World Cup and I would never forget the image of Madiba (Mandela) walking out at Ellis Park with his Springbok jersey on with the No 6 on the back,” he said in 2013 following Mandela’s death.
“And then the image of Francois actually holding the World Cup at the end, with Madiba standing in the background waving his cap and dancing. He was such a joyful person.
Sadly for De Villiers with his lucky charm gone on Saturday brought him the stark realisation the World Cup gods would never smile on him.
Van Gaal takes United players through their paces.