By the Rivers of Babylon and Fifty shades of Whyte

23 Oct

Good Morning,

According to legend, in the Sixth Century BC, a man by the name of Belshazzar– later sometimes called Balthazar– came to power and became King. Those of you who are historians or biblical scholars will recognise the name– as again legend and biblical account says Belshazzer  was the last King of Babylon.

All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a mound of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers– The Rivers of Babylon. The ancient city itself was built upon the Euphrates, and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river’s seasonal floods. The site is actually about 55 miles south of Baghdad in modern day Iraq, and of course today it is nothing like the bustling city full of temptation and vice as portrayed in biblical epics a la Hollywood, in ancient histories and yes… even as referred to in the bible.

I am no biblical scholar at all, but the word Babylon conjures up images of  a great city and kingdom, which teemed with riches, big city riches, temptations, adventures and vices which ultimately lead to rack and ruin– both physically and spiritually.

All good and interesting stuff you may say, but ultimately if biblical history or the study of ancient history & myth is not your bag, then a discussion of Babylon and Babylonians in general could be dismissed as irrelevant and boring drivel– especially on a football forum.

Yet, such a view would be completely and utterly wrong, because the entire game of football– and indeed our everyday lives are in fact governed by the Babylonians and their practices– pratcices that have existed for more than 4000 years.

You see, the Babylonians gave us something other than a city full of vice and temptations. They provided the most advanced and practiced mathematical system of counting, calculating, measuring and so on. The system determined geometry, engineering and all sorts of everyday practical things.

For example the Babylonian scheme of counting was all calculated to a base of 60–as opposed to the decimal 10– and so it was they who started to divide the day into 24 separate hours, each in turn divided into 60 minutes with each in turn divided into 60 seconds. Accordingly, there is no modern sporting endeavor- and practically no modern activity of any kind — that is not in some way measured against or by Babylonian Mathematics and systems. A Football Match is meant to last precisely one and a half  Babylonian measures– divided equally into two segments or halves!

When it comes to any activity that involves a race against time then the winner is declared by measuring all the competitors against the Babylonian scale………. or does it?

Yesterday, one of the most lauded international sportsmen of all time was stripped of all sporting history, integrity and dignity despite– and indeed perhaps because of— his consistent ability to be the best when measured on the Babylonian timescale.

Lance Armstrong has ” no place in cycling ” according to Pat McQuaid of The International Cycling Union (UCI). Cycling’s governing body upheld the 1,000 page report from the US anti doping agency (USADA) and condemned Lance’s hitherto “hero” status to the dustbin. That report was based upon many personal statements and testimonies, and modern day scientific analysis of tests carried out on samples of Armstrong’s blood taken from past races. In short, Armstrong’s blood counts were abnormal on a number of occasions– as were those of his team mates– leading to the conclusion that such results can only have come about as a result of his having taken banned substances. To put it another way— despite being first over the line, despite being fastest round the course and having the best times when touring around France in the greatest cycle race in history, Lance lost out to another Babylonian type counting system. This is a system which can accurately measure your blood cells and reveal a true measure of whether you have doped or cheated or not, and at the end of the Babylonian day Lance lost out to the counting system. He succumbed to the vices and temptations of money and cheating and ultimately met his own doom and destruction just like the ancient city itself.

Yet this is far from the end of the Armstrong affair. It is only the end of the beginning so to speak. The decision yesterday was a disaster– albeit an inevitable disaster– for Armstrong.

He has already seen a complete reversal of policy by Nike who have now abandoned Armstrong despite years of defending their man in the face of drug and doping allegations. The sports company have released a statement saying that they were “betrayed and misled” by the man in the yellow jersey. They may well sue him.

Mind you, they may not have to bother themselves too much as Armstrong already faces a massive claim for damages from the US Postal Service who sponsored his team and pumped in millions on the basis that he was the “winner” of the Tour de France on successive occasions. What’s more, that sponsorship– from US Postal and others– became ever bigger on the back of Lance’s repeated anti doping declarations and his “clean” image becoming ever more prevalent with the resultant public perception of Lance the hero.

Contractually, Lance was rewarded financially– to the tune of millions– for every time he won the Tour de France.

Well, as of yesterday he did not win the Tour de France once let alone 7  times and he was unanimously declared unclean in the eyes of his sport with the result that his legal and technical defence to a claim for $120 Million has disappeared over the hill. Contratually, and now legally, Lance obtained that money on a false pretence.

However, it doesn’t end there. A few years back Lance took to the courts and gave evidence under oath in a variety of legal forums– where he was answering depositions or where he was pursuing former team mates and employees in an attempt to shut them up. Alas the problem with testimony given under oath is that if it turns out to be untrue– especially when the witness stands to gain by telling untruths— then there is a risk of being charged with perjury, and if convicted the result can often be an enforced stay within four walls with not an alp in sight for a very long time.

In totally condemning Armstrong yesterday, Pat McQuaid of the UCI took a bit of a gamble, because it is said that the UCI knew all along that Armstrong was cheating and did their best to cover it up or at least look the other way as often as they could. They did not want their big star taken down, they did not want the scandal and they did want the money that Armstrong brought to the sport– so he was allowed to get away with it.

The gamble from yesterday is that McQuaid came out and said all this was nonsense and that they knew nothing. He said that while they may have made the odd mistake, the UCI always acted with integrity and in the best interests of the sport. They did the best with the doping technology they had available and that they shouldn’t be criticized because Armstrong cheated and got away with it.

Almost immediately, David Walsh, the lead sports writer for the Sunday Times, branded McQuaid’s statement as a disgrace as it lacked any contrition, offered no solace to clean competitors like Christophe Bassons who was run out of the sport ( by the way the Bassons story deserves a post on its own as he was absolutely ruined by the entire Tour de France peloton and organisation who shirked all sporting integrity unlike the SFL clubs recently ) and which statement just failed to mention how the UCI knew that Armstrong was at best “dodgy” and that they failed to carry out any proper scrutiny and checks on their champion for fear of the consequences.

Of course the one person who can come out and make it plain that the UCI were complicit all along is Lance Armstrong– but if he comes clean now– or indeed ever– then he will be financially ruined and in all probability face a period of time in jail for perjury and possibly for other matters such as obtaining money under false pretences or similar. Call it fraud, call it embezzlement, call it what you will— not only will Lance not speak– Lance can’t afford to speak. Unless of course he comes clean and issues a full confession and names the names who knew– with the financial promise of a book deal and film rights to ease his financial pain?

In many ways Armstrong is in a similar position to Sir David Murray. No matter what the outcome and the detail of the FTT decision, Murray will never accept any wrongdoing and will hold to the line that he and MIH– and indeed Rangers– always acted in the belief that what they were doing was legal and that they had taken legal advice which steered them down that course.

The problem with legal advice is that lawyers– especially the big firms with big reputations– always want to cover their back ( rightly so ) and as a result any such advice is always explicit, caveated, and given against a background of facts as provided by the client. If the client omits salient facts or practices then the advice is as worthwhile as a chocolate watch on a hot day.

Murray will never admit that he was wrong for fear of being sued. In the same way that Lance rubbished the USADA report and always will, Murray will never accept an adverse judgement– he can’t.

He had a share release in 2004 and invited people to part with their cash in return for shares in a company which he ran. If he accepts that he periled that company by way of an illegal tax scheme then he may face a claim or two in the courts as any investment is now worthless. Remember too that the vast majority of the money “raised” on that share release came from MIH who in turn borrowed from HBOS (now Lloyds) and it might just be that the bank are not getting all their money back from MIH– so they may just take a wee interest in the detail of the FTT decision.

Richard Wilson suggests in this morning’s Herald that some players may be chased for unpaid tax. This may be the first time that a major newspaper has openly accepted that such a position is possible and many former players may be paying a visit to their lawyers to check the position.

Armstrong was condemned for his treatment of other US Postal team mates– forcing them and cajoling them to take EPO and other substances or lose their place on the team and the financial rewards that come with it. Even before the FTT decision– and remember that the tribunal heard evidence on each and every EBT under operation– we are already aware of players who have said that they were told that this was the way they were going to be paid if they wanted to play at Ibrox. If you were not prepared to accept that then you were on your bike. You could take it or leave it. That was the Murray way– not unlike Lance.

The reaction of the press to the recent statements of Craig Whyte also make for interesting reading. Jim Traynor dismisses Whyte as a fecund liar whose every statement is just to be treated as balderdash. Tom English stated on radio that Whyte threatened to sue anyone who suggested that Rangers PLC would go into Administration, and thus ( according to English ) he has to be lying when he said to Chris McLaughlin that Administration was always viewed as a possibility. With respect to Tom that argument doesn’t stack up. Whyte would threaten to sue anyone who was in danger of revealing the truth– that Administration loomed large and real— purely to hide and disguise the truth—again just like Armstrong.

The problem with Whyte is that he never releases a statement that is wholly untrue– there are always truths in there.

: Rangers PLC was unsalable and a financial basket case when he got it because of the Big Tax Case

: Rangers had dealt with Ticketus before– just not on his scale

: Rangers did have an operating hole of around £10 Million per year– later confirmed  by the Duff & Phelps figures.

: He appears to have believed that they could go into Administration and come out again within a few short weeks. Duff & Phelps said exactly the same thing at their very first press conference.

: Rangers PLC would have gone bust with or without Craig Whyte

And so on and on.

These are truths– but they get lost amongst the other nonsense that Whyte spouts so easily and carelessly.

That is the problem with the MBB– there are fifty shades of Whyte in any one set of statements and releases, and hitherto the Scottish Press have swallowed the lot and have been made to look foolish instead of standing back and questioning exactly what he says. I wonder how some journo’s and editors felt when Whyte said that he never put it about that he was a Billionaire with untold wealth? Was that why Jim Traynor was so angry– because his paper certainly championed that line at first. Remember he was going to front load Super Ally’s war chest!!! The reality was that he couldn’t front load a washing machine in a laundrette!

Yet with Murray, the papers still swallow every word without question. Last week it was announced that he met with Charles Green to agree the sale of Edmiston House at a favourable  price, so that green could turn it into an Hotel and Casino! For a start, the property is empty and has been on the market for ages so in this buyers market it is likely that the buyer will get a favourable price unless the seller knows that the buyer is desperate for some reason. Yet stop and think for a minute– who owns that building? Might it be MIH? If so, that company is no longer controlled by Murray– its controlled by Lloyds, so what exactly was Green doing talking to Murray because he does not have the power to sell he haw without the banks consent. If it is an MIH property then it is a bank decision– and not a Murray one. Oh and by the way– a Casino and Hotel? If you got the building for nothing do you know what it would cost to turn it into a Casino and Hotel? Bloody Fortunes. Mind you if you were prepared to spend the money on such a venture and not buy any players for say a decade then you might make  a few quid– if you think that is a good destination for a Casino and Hotel?

Whyte tells all sorts of Porkies but he is absolutely right when he says that Murray is the lead contributor to the downfall of Rangers. It was he who brought the club to ruin. It is he who faces ruin if the truth really comes out, and like the oft mentioned omerta that is used to describe the silence that surrounded Armstrong and the drug taking in cycling, the silence from all the participants and witnesses who gave evidence to the FTT will be difficult to maintain once the detail is released. It is he who for years attempted to disguise the fact that Rangers PLC was already ruined financially– long before the appearance of Craig Whyte.

Further, like the UCI, the sporting bodies– the blazers, office holders, hangers on and cow towers going back 20 years– will disown anybody who is clearly exposed as having blatantly broken the rules. They cannot afford the criticism that they should have done more, or that they slept while Murray and his fellow board members pulled the wool over their eyes. They certainly cannot afford to be seen to be shouldering any of the blame or suggestion that they looked the other way for fear of the consequences. The FTT and the Independent Tribunal decisions will see them run a mile from their former champions with the result that they will condemn and denounce the wrongdoers in the belief, and the hope, that those wrongdoers will not be too vocal or say anything which would implicate even worse wrongdoing for fear of the consequences– again just like Armstrong.

The evidence before the FTT will have been given under oath. It will have been recorded meticulously and in detail. It will be written on in detail and examined for veracity, accuracy an credibility. If what was said under oath doesn’t turn out to be quite the same as was said elsewhere– such as in a share prospectus, or in documents submitted to a bank or to the SFA or to the SPL or even in a newspaper, then there could be …. well….. consequences! Big Consequences.

As for the outcome of the FTT and the decision of the Independent Judicial Panel due to sit next month– and by that I don’t mean the ultimate decision alone– I mean the detail, the nitty gritty, the step by step explanation, the paper chase and the detailed facts of who signed what and submitted it where, when and to whom — well that all just takes me back the Belshazzar and the Babylonians.

The story goes that during a drunken feast, Belshazzar uses the holy golden and silver vessels, from Solomon’s Temple, to praise ‘the gods of gold and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone’. Soon afterward, a hand appears and writes the following words on the wall of the royal palace:
Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin

Belshazzar calls his advisers and asks them to attempt to interpret the meaning. However, their conclusions are meaningless: “two minas, a shekel and two parts”. Belshazzar is left none the wiser.  As a result the King sends for Daniel, an exiled Israelite taken from Jerusalem, who had served in high office under Nebuchadnezzar.

The meaning that Daniel decrypts from these words is based on passive verbs corresponding to the measure names, “numbered, weighed, divided.”

According to Daniel, this is the writing that was inscribed:” mina, mina, shekel, half-mina”. This is the interpretation of the matter:

mina—– God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end;

shekel—— you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting;

half-mina—– your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.- Daniel 5:25-28

Although usually left untranslated in English translations of Daniel, these words are known Aramaic names of measures of currency: MENE, a mina (from the root meaning “to count”), TEKEL, a spelling of shekel (from the root meaning “to weigh”), PERES, half a mina (from the root meaning “to divide”, but additionally resembling the word for “Persia”). The last word (prs) he read as peres not parsin. His free choice of interpretation and decoding revealed the menacing subtext:

“Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting.”

The divine menace against the dissolute Belshazzar, whose kingdom was to be divided between the Medes and Persians, was swiftly realized. That very night King Belshazzar is slain, and Darius the Mede becomes King.

The Kingdom of Lance Armstrong had its days numbered from long ago. That Kingdom, his version of events, his legacy, his influence and all that flowed into it and from it, has been weighed and found wanting, and the resultant court cases may well see the spoils of his folly divided among his creditors.

All of that might sound a bit too biblical in its description but think on this.

It is the story of Belshazzar and Daniel, and Daniel’s subsequent interpretation of the words “Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin” that give us one of the most commonly used English phrases of all time.

A phrase that Lance Armstrong and David Murray ignored at their peril.

The phrase concerned?



8 Responses to “By the Rivers of Babylon and Fifty shades of Whyte”

  1. paulsatim October 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Superb, as ever, BRTH !!!

  2. ekt1m October 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    BRTH!!! “I am in awe”.

  3. Vincent October 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Fantastic. Simply outstanding again.:-)

  4. thpriest October 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    tremendously entertaining and informative storytelling. as ever

  5. Carntyne October 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Ya wee belter!

  6. On the fence October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    The fact that a piece like this wouldn´t be considered for a national newspaper because of it´s length allied to the preceived attention span of it´s readers points to one of the reasons why such Kingdoms last so long.

  7. spurtle October 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Reblogged this on spurtle and commented:
    “The Kingdom of Lance Armstrong had its days numbered from long ago. That Kingdom, his version of events, his legacy, his influence and all that flowed into it and from it, has been weighed and found wanting, and the resultant court cases may well see the spoils of his folly divided among his creditors.”
    Spot the parallels?

  8. Deansy October 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    ‘”the blazers, office holders, hangers on and cow towers going back 20 years– will disown anybody who is clearly exposed as having blatantly broken the rules” – Don’t think our lot will as Murray might be prefer to be ‘hung for a sheep rather than a lamb’ and dish the dirt he PAID out !!

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