tip off
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Tomalaris on Lance Armstrong: “an ambassador for the human race” … “stomping his way to success”

I came across a few gems from Tomalaris that I thought would be useful to share, including: “I guess I fit in the category of those who have always admired Lance, and I confess, I have done so unashamedly. I feel his amazing record in life and sports speaks for itself.”

I’m working on another piece about the Australian public broadcaster SBS and its cycling coverage, particularly in relation to a complaint of the network’s perceived lack of balanced coverage of the issue of doping in cycling. In the course of research for that piece I came across a few gems from the face of SBS’s cycling coverage, Mike Tomalaris that I thought would be useful to share.

Michael (Mike) Tomalaris has been the Australian “voice of cycling” for many years. 2012 marks his 20th year as a presenter with SBS (happy anniversary!) and after an initial career reporting on football, since about 1996 he has been closely associated with the rise of SBS as the go-to Australian TV station for cycling coverage.

In 2011 Tomalaris was recognised by the Australian Sports Commission for ‘Most Outstanding Contribution to a Sport by an Individual‘. On Sundays he bursts from our screens as the host of  Cycling Central, the only Australian TV program dedicated to cycling.

I’ve not had the time – nor to be frank the inclination – to trawl through the many hours of video footage that Mike and his fellow presenters at SBS have broadcast over the years but I have been following Mike’s blog on the SBS Cycling website from time to time.

Just as with his broadcasts, I remembered that on the blog he’d been a willing defender of the disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, so I paid particular attention to those pieces. I want to stress that this is a very limited survey across a few blog posts – most of Mike’s work has been aired on TV – and that I’m not having a dig at Mike’s personal or professional integrity

Here is a selection of Mike’s blog posts over the past four years, with particular reference to lance Armstrong.

Will the world’s best cope with Armstrong?

A comeback by the quiet American has stunned the cycling world, but it could also show up the so called “big guns” of today’s Pro road racing ranks. My immediate reaction on hearing the news was of a media “beat-up“, but on second thought it may not be such a far-fetched proposition. I mean let’s remember Lance for a brilliant and legendary career – a seven-time champion of the world’s greatest race, the Tour de France.

At this year’s Tour de France I got the impression the GC riders were tripping over each other, rather than stomping their way to success. Remember, this was the Armstrong trademark for so many years.

I reckon Lance wants to come back, if nothing more, than to prove he is better than the current crop of riders, and has lost nothing even after four years away from the roads of Europe and at an age when most racers are thinking of retirement. One thing’s for sure, win, lose or draw, another Tour de France featuring the name “Armstrong” will certainly attract the eyes of a world-wide audience.

Will Lance win? 

What’s all this talk about Lance Armstrong starting favourite towin the Tour Down Under in his first comeback race in three years? From all reports, the seven time Tour de France winner is “training the house down“, yet it doesn’t mean he’s primed to win the first big pro-event of the year.

The less informed may argue over Lance’s return to the pro-circuit after overcoming his battle with testicular cancer in 1999. Remember his monumental performance when gracing the colours of US Postal for the first time in the Tour de France prologue of that year? Few would have believed, others are still convinced he was helped by performance-enhancing substances. Either way, it marked the start of an era – one that probably may never be repeated.

Some sceptics may argue the cancer promotion is a smoke screen if Lance fails in his quest for a successful comeback. I say so what!

Lance is a living legend and win, lose or draw he will be the center of attention in Adelaide whether he comes first, second or last. He has nothing to prove. I compare his appearance on two wheels to Tiger Woods making a return to the golf course once his self-imposed sabbatical ends later in the year. If Tiger never wins another tournament in an already illustrious career does it really matter?

Welcome to Australia Lance, enjoy the sun, the sights and the sounds. It goes without saying you’ll enjoy being in the spotlight yet again. Thanks for the memories of the past and thanks for sticking around just that little bit longer.

Bad break for Lance

The crash at the Castilla y Leon which ended Lance Armstrong’s race aspirations may turn out to be an indicator of things to come … But after the handful of races he’s appeared in so far this year, the most asked question should be “Will Lance ever be at the top of his game again.?

I for one certainly hope so and while the heart speaks volumes, the head says “probably not“. Lance has certainly shown a competitive edge in all of his races after three years away from the bike – never really dominating the way he once did.

In the old days, Lance had the stamina of a steam train, the physical and mental strength of ten men and the team support that was built like Fort Knox. I hate to say it, but all those ingredients seem to be gone and questions have to be asked of an Astana team that appears to lack structure and organisation.

Tough day for Armstrong

The sight of Lance Armstrong struggling to hang on to his big-name rivals at the end of the Giro’s first testing day was a most unusual sight for cycling aficionados who have closely followed the career of the seven time winner of the Tour de France. While some critics may argue Lance will never again enjoy the glory days when he”killed off” all-comers at the end of any mountain stage, I say give the guy a break as he makes a fighting return to the big-time.

Lance might now be better advised to use cycling’s first Grand Tour of the year as a training run with the view of making a hardened assault at his old stomping ground – the Tour de France. While many would love to claim he’s passed his use-by date, it’s been often said you can never write-off Armstrong as a serious contender.

He is a character, a personality and a media magnet the sport desperately needs at a time when the headlines are filled with doom and gloom. Above all he is the best modern-day cyclist the world has ever seen.

One for the ages

As a sports journalist Mike Tomalaris has covered many of the greats and he finds Lance Armstrong stands out as an examplary ambassador for cycling. I haven’t helped noticing the small number of cycling aficionados who criticise commentators continuously “banging on” about Lance Armstrongand what he has brought to the sport during his incredible life and career. I can never understand why SBS cycling gurus Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are targeted (by a minority) for being biased whenever Lance jumps on his bike and pedals to victory.

Last night, I was one of a select 70 people invited to meet the Armstrong (sic) and hear him speak in a relaxed setting in Adelaide organised for members of major sponsors of the Santos Tour Down Under.

We got to learn about Lance’s love for life, family, friends, politics, cycling and everything in between. It was simply fascinating!

I’ve always felt Lance as being a cut above-your-average sportsman who presents himself better than most and capable of holding an audience in the palm of his hand.

When he talks, those in the room listen to his every word, and I’m not one to be star-struck by sporting heroes. In a career dating back to the mid 1980s, I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with the likes of football greats such as Diego Maradona, Jurgen Klinsmann, Roberto Baggio and Kenny Dalglish to name a few, in my travels covering World Cup tournaments. For me, the above names are champions of their sport but none ever really struck me as being ambassadors of the human race – that is a trait Lance certainly possesses.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking to Lance at a professional capacity as a journalist for SBS on the hot roads when covering his tracks during his reign as Tour de France champion. Last night there was no TV camera anywhere in sight and I didn’t have to thrust a microphone in his face to have him explain about his latest conquest.

I guess I fit in the category of those who have always admired Lance, and I confess, I have done so unashamedly. I feel his amazing record in life and sports speaks for itself. But, as a I say, it seems not everyone is convinced the seven time Tour de France winner has earned his stripes as a legend without cheating his way to the top. Well, if Lance is guilty for cheating the spirit of sport it’s never been proven, and until that day arrives I will always admire a guy who has changed the face of cycling to what it is today.

My top ten in 2010

At the end of each cycling year I try and collate my favourite and least favourite moments of the season. In the past it’s generally been an easy task selecting “five best moments” with the “five worst moments“, but in 2010 , I must admit the good has far outweighed the bad.

10. LANCE’S ADELAIDE TWEET RIDE

When Lance announces on Twitter he feels like going for a social ride with some of his closest friends, up to 10,000 decide to turn up just days ahead of the Tour Down Under. Love or hate him, the guy is an unstoppable PR machine and the many smiles he brought to the faces of us “commoners” on that brilliant summer’s morning, will live on with those who joined in the party.

Reading the rule book

I’ll be honest – writing about doping in cycling is never easy, but I’ve been compelled by the recent controversies particularly those surrounding Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

I was brought up to believe a person is innocent until proven guilty so it amazes me how so many so-called “cycling experts” are prepared to hang both riders for allegedly using performance-enhancing substances without a fair trial.

Sure, we can all make assumptions, and there’s every possibility the Tour de France winners may have dabbled in doping. But where’s the proof? I don’t have any – do you? So until the courts make the final decision one way or the other and the investigations are completed, nobody is qualified to be overly judgemental except for those close to the action. How anyone can point the finger at Contador and/or Armstrong for their possible links to cheating when none of us really know the full details of their individual situations?

Armstrong never tested positive despite undergoing countless dope tests in a career spanning some 20 years. And although the rumour mongers and hardcore investigative journalists have been out to get both (for decades in Armstrong’s case) – each are officially clean – whether we like it or not. If either or both are eventually proven to have cheated, only then do we throw the book at them and discard them forever for misleading and cheating on us for so long.

That being the case I feel we must judge both on face value and that is; they are currently innocent and therefore clean under the eyes of the law. For now that’s good enough for me.

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 That is all I have – for now. Please feel free to register – it only takes a few seconds – and post any further gems or your thoughts here.

 

PS: The lovely photo by John Fotiadis above is of Mike “at home” from a puff piece by The Addie. I also like this one of Mike and his favourite car from this piece in the SMH Drive section from last year where he shows that he is a faithful character – he’s stiil driving his 1996 Hyundai Excel with 270k on the clock.

 

 

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  • 1
    Daniel Thomas
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    It seems unbelievable that Armstrong could have gotten away with it for so long without some help from the “inside”. Perhaps a full investigation needs to look at exactly who knew what and when in the UCI, so that blame can be correctly apportioned. Directing all of the wrath at Armstrong alone does seem to be a bit short-sighted.

    Even though cheating is wrong in a perfect world, Armstrong was trying to compete in a sport already riddled with drug cheats. So, to achieve what he did (even with the help of drugs) is still an amazing thing. Undoubtedly, videos like the one at http://larmstrongdrugabuse.celebrityshocks.com/ will damage the image of cycling. You can’t help wondering how many cyclists are still at it today…

  • 2
    another Dan
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    This may be relevant. From a show on ABC (The Sports Factor) on JUL 1, 2005 called ‘Lance the Legend’. It featured Tomalaris, Guinness and Andreu waxing lyrical and was narrated by Hodge.

    Anyways here’s Tomalaris:

    “You know, most of the international media that have followed Lance since he came back in ’99, basically have admired him. The French tabloids, they’re looking for some dirt, they’ve tried very, very hard, and I was one who thought that perhaps they were getting very, very close, but Lance, despite the fact that he’s been tested on I think more than 100 occasions, has never been tested positive, so the record speaks for itself. They can try as much as they like, the French media, the dirt media in France as I like to call them, but you can’t frame somebody when there’s no evidence, you know.”

    “Lance for me has been an inspiration. It’s one reason why I love going to the Tour. I’ve covered many, many sports, I’ve been to the World Cup Football, the European Football, I’ve done many things since I first covered television sports in the late ’80s, but I’ve always got a special place for Lance Armstrong because it’s a passionate sport, it’s an addictive sport, cycling, and he’s given it the world-wide exposure that it enjoys today. It’s a European sport, professional cycling, but thanks to people like Lance Armstrong and the Anglophiles that have dominated the sport in the last five or six years, it’s become a world event.”

    Transcript available here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sportsfactor/lance-the-legend/3365730

  • 3
    Bob Gosford
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Daniel – I think the full investigation you refer to is coming, at least in regard to Cycling Australia – how thorough & effective it will be is another matter.

    As for the UCI, I think the credibility of that organisation is just about fully shot.

    Who will investigate it – or has the authority to – I am unsure – others may have better-placed thoughts.

    Another Dan – thanks for the tip on Mike’s thoughts about the globalisation of cycling.

    He is most likely correct in what he says – cycling has been globalised – but that he obviously sees it as a good thing is another indication of his idea of what cycling should be.

    As for Mike and the “special place” he has for Armstrong …

  • 4
    another Dan
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    ‘Armstrong: Should the media have done more?’(891 Mornings) ~19mins

    This veers away from ‘Should the media have done more?’. Tomalaris on why certain questions weren’t asked (amongst them: ‘We just couldn’t afford to lose his faith’, ‘I couldn’t afford to lose Lance’, etc). Stuart Littlemore takes over the show.

    Stream/download here:http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/2012/10/armstrong-should-the-media-have-do-more.html

  • 5
    SBH
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Mike Tomalaris is a nong. He routinely misunderstands what he’s been told, mispronounces names and displays an ignorance of the basics of the sport that is just shocking for ‘the voice of cycling’ Every year we cringe when Tomo let’s fly during the tour.

    Watching Anthony Tan adopt relentlessly professional behaviour in the face of Tomo is an object lesson in good behaviour. But seeing as we are talking about Lance and Mike’s love of him, let’s remember him after Joseba Belkoi was so badly hurt coming down the Cote de la Rochette and Armstrong cross country’d to avoid him. Tomalaris asked Lance if it reminded him of his mountain bike days. Lance looked genuinely confused but really politely answered this dumb question.

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