Off the Ball is an Irish radio show which airs at 7 O’Clock on Newstalk every weeknight. They cover most all sports and it’s a very entertaining show which regularly features big name guests.
Paul Kimmage often features, as does Nicolas Roche and they’ve even had UCI President Pat McQuaid on from time to time (although he refuses to appear on air at the same time as Kimmage).
Earlier this week, I was listening to the show as they were previewing the Bayer Leverkusen vs Barcelona match in the UEFA Champion’s League. As usual when discussing all things Barcelona, they had Scottish journalist Graham Hunter on as a guest.
Now Hunter might not be to everyone’s liking. He seems to get offended if anyone dares utter a negative word against Barcelona and he has regularly had on-air altercations with the show’s co-host Ken Early.
He has become so embedded with Barcelona and their to-defeat-us-is-an-insult-to-football attitude , that his objectivity must be questioned. But in general, he is a respected journalist who also regularly appears on Sky Sports discussing Spanish football.
But before the Leverkusen game on Tuesday, he was asked about midfield playmaker Xavi’s participation in the match and he said the following:
So Xavi, one of the world’s best players regularly takes growth hormones, and Hunter didn’t seem bothered. He quickly moved on to discuss the form of Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.
The Bayern Munich doctor that Hunter mentions is Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. He is a controversial doctor who has been responsible for administering some controversial treatments such as injecting crushed pieces of the fleshy pink comb on a cockerel’s head into England cricket captain Michael Vaughan and injecting goat’s blood into sprinter Usain Bolt and England footballers Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard (among others).
This guy is football’s Eufemiano Fuentes.
But where are all the websites picking up this story? Where is the public outcry that Xavi, a player who has won all of the game’s major trophies in the last four years, is on drugs?
This past week has admittedly, been very bad for the image of cycling. The cases of three Tour de France winners all came to a head. Alberto Contador was banned for ‘two years’ and stripped of results, Jan Ullrich was also banned for ‘two years’ and stripped of results while the investigation into Lance Armstrong was dropped as the Texan remains as elusive as ever.
Mainstream media reporting on these stories I can understand, they are mainstream stories involving some of the cycling’s biggest ever names and cycling’s biggest race.
But why then do Sky Sports News feel the need to report on, for example, the disqualification of French track rider Gregory Baugé? They never think to report on Baugé when he wins a race.The only cycling related news that ever makes the headlines on this channel are when Team Sky win, or when someone (anyone) tests positive.
Sky Sports News spend about 45 minutes of every hour reporting on football. That’s over 30 hours of coverage (and counting) since Hunter revealed this information about Xavi taking growth hormones. Needless to say, they did not mention this revelation amongst their bloated, tiresome coverage of the UEFA Champion’s League, a trophy which Xavi won last year, as captain of Barcelona.
Earlier this year, a German T.V. show revealed that the winner of today’s stage of the Tour of Oman Marcel Kittel had undergone a blacklight treated blood transfusion. Kittel was forced to answer all sorts of doping-related questions. His Team 1T4i were also obliged to respond to the allegations (which they did so in an admirably diplomatic fashion).
Kittel described the experience as a nightmare and the worst day of his life. Xavi has experienced absolutely none of what Kittel went through.
The audio snippet above is akin to a cycling journalist such as Lionel Birnie revealing on a national radio show that he knows for a fact that Mark Cavendish takes EPO, but then move swiftly along to discuss Geraint Thomas’s qualities as a lead-out man.
But this is not cycling. This is football.
So nobody cares.