Winners & Losers Of 2012 (Part Two)

Winner:  The Artist

It had been more than 80 years since a silent film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  (Wings took the honour all the way back in 1927.)  Decades later, another (mostly) silent feature, The Artist, found itself in the hunt along with eight other talkies in the same category in 2012.

Besides snagging Best Picture, the film won Oscars for its Original Score and its Costume Design, Michel Hazanavicius won for Best Director and Jean Dujardin took home the Best Actor trophy.  That’s not all.  Continuing on from its triumph at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, all those end-of-year critics’ prizes, not to mention all its appearances on numerous 2011 Top 10 lists, The Artist received a whole slew of other awards this year including six Cesars, the French Academy Awards.

Not bad for a black and white French film filmed in full screen.

Loser:  Lance Armstrong

How was it ever possible for a man with one ball to win the most grueling road race of all time not once, not twice but seven times in a row without illegal enhancement?  The truth is it wasn’t possible.

For 20 years, this abrasive Texan managed to escape any kind of serious consequences for his chronic and deliberate cheating by the sheer force of his bullying personality, his ruthless smear campaign against whistleblowers and meddling journalists, and a couple of suspiciously timed “donations” to the toothless UCI, the international regulatory body of cycling.

From 1999 to 2005, Armstrong won every Tour De France, transforming him into a highly respected American athlete.  The cancer survivor took some of his considerable winnings and started the well-regarded foundation, Live Strong, to help patients and their families with medical expenses and moral support.

Unfortunately, how he got the cancer is an interesting story.  As later revealed by witnesses, when asked by his doctors in 1996 if he ever used performance enhancing drugs, Armstrong quickly rattled off five different types:  EPO, cortisone, testosterone, steroids and human growth hormone.  Amazingly, after fully recovering, he went back to doping as he vigourously trained for a comeback.

As his remarkable run at the Tour De France began there was already suspicion from some in the European press about whether he was racing paniqua (clean) or not.  Armstrong denied all the allegations and went out of his way to lash out at anyone who doubted his integrity, a pattern that would continue for years to come. 

As former teammates and medical personnel bravely started telling the truth about Armstrong and the United States Postal Team’s chronic dependence on doping (to be fair they weren’t the only ones guilty of this), particularly blood transfusions, lawsuits were filed, reputations were sullied and all the while, he was still able to maintain a very positive image in his own country, despite acting like a defensive jerk.  He even survived civil and criminal cases against him.

Until 2012, that is.  Four months after an American federal prosecution was dropped, the USADA announced in June that it had attained numerous evidence from witnesses not to mention suspicious blood samples to definitively declare Armstrong an outright cheater.  He sued to have the case dropped but was unsuccessful.  Later that summer former teammate and rival Tyler Hamilton released his co-authored memoir, The Secret Race.  It contained numerous damning anecdotes (some previously revealed on 60 Minutes last year) of widespread doping beyond even Armstrong and company.  A fascinating expose into how easy it was for professional cyclists to work the anti-doping system to their advantage with little to no consequence, Hamilton portrays Armstrong as a fiercely competitive, paranoid mob boss who used fear and intimidation to keep “the trolls” (nosy journalists) and “the choads” (critical cyclists) off his narcotic scent while always being several steps ahead of the drug testers and everyone else in the peloton.  Hamilton felt his wrath on numerous occasions including a memorably tense encounter in Armstrong’s favourite restaurant, Cache Cache.

Despite what he has long claimed, Armstrong did fail drug tests.  He got busted for cortisone in 1999 but thanks to a phony back-dated “prescription” hastily written by one of his medical personnel he got away with it.  Hamilton notes that his former teammate actually told him that he also got nabbed at the 2001 Tour Of Switzerland.  But he faced no punishment after forking over a couple of large payments (one in the six figures) to the UCI so they could buy better drug testing equipment.  (The word you’re looking for is chutzpah.)  And then there was the very clever journalist who deduced that Armstrong failed several more 1999 Tour De France tests during an investigation in 2005.

Meanwhile, in October, the USADA released their 202-page report documenting their findings regarding Armstrong and Team Postal.  They concluded that this was the most sophisicated doping scheme they ever encountered.  The heavily criticized UCI honoured their findings and the embattled cyclist refused to defend himself in arbitration, a telling sign.  As a result, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France victories, he lost most of his endorsements and he fully resigned from Live Strong’s board of directors after initially quitting just his chairmanship.  For their part, Live Strong removed his name completely from their organization because his association was hindering legitimate fundraising efforts. 

He also lost an honourary degree, his case was lampooned by South Park and an investigation is under way to determine if he will keep his Bronze medal from the 2000 Summer Olympics.  Tyler Hamilton lost his Gold medal he won from the 2004 games.  Chances are, Armstrong will lose his medal, too.

Meanwhile, Armstrong is facing a slew of lawsuits from numerous disgruntled parties including former teammate Floyd Landis and a company that wants the bonus money it paid out to him back for his tainted Tour De France victories.  (This will be their second attempt after losing a 2006 case against him.)

While naive fools like actress Sophia Bush remain in denial, it’s nice to know that the current UCI president is fully tuned in.  As Pat McQuaid succinctly noted in October, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.… He deserves to be forgotten.”

Winner:  Charlize Theron

Almost a decade after winning an Academy Award, this 37-year-old South African beauty remains on the A-list thanks to a couple of heel turns in two blockbuster summer movies.  Even though critics were divided on Snow White & The Huntsman, audiences were very supportive.  The film generated almost 400 million in global ticket sales.  Theron, who plays the wicked Queen out to vanguish her top rival, might pop up in the proposed sequel which will focus more closely on Chris Hemworth’s character.

Ridley Scott’s entertaining Alien prequel, Prometheus, did roughly the same amount of business but generated far more positive reviews.  Despite a scene-stealing Oscar-worthy performance from the great Michael Fassbender, Theron holds her own as one of the numerous villains in the film.  Hard to believe we’re the same age.

Loser:  Tom Cruise

He got dumped by Katie Holmes after 6 years of marriage, Rock Of Ages was a critical and commercial bust, and then of course, there was this embarrassing Vanity Fair report.  (Tom Cruise needed Scientologists to find him a date after his divorce from Nicole Kidman?  How lame.) 

The upcoming Jack Reacher is his last chance for something positive in 2012.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 7, 2012
1:37 a.m.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Her stubborn defense of the abusive, highly litigious, then-heavily endorsed cyclist Lance Armstrong, who later confessed to drug cheating on Oprah’s Next Chapter, from her official Twitter account, August 23, 2012, (here, too) and July 2012.  And for the record, he did fail several drug tests. […]

  2. […] Will you ever apologize for falsely claiming that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who you still follow on Twitter, was the subject of an unwarranted “witch […]

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