Rugby prince but World Cup pau­per

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Pla­tini no longer favourite

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.

— AFP

Van Gaal takes United play­ers through their paces.

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