The Whitehouse Plumbers, Humpty Dumpty, Senator George McGovern and a trip to the Doctors and the Lawyers!

20 Feb

Good Morning,

In the course of the 1972 US Presidential election, Senator George McGovern, The Democratic party nominee, was adamant. On more than one occasion, he described the existing Administration of President Richard Millhouse Nixon as ” the most corrupt in the history of the United States of America.”

Neither the administration concerned, nor the American people, took the slightest bit of notice of the Senator’s comments. No one in the Administration, nor the Administration itself, sought to sue or legally challenge what was clearly a statement with potentially legal consequences if proven to be incorrect, and in the wider sphere– practically no one voted for McGovern, giving Nixon four more years with a landslide victory.

Yet, the re-election of President Nixon in November, took place in the full knowledge that 5 men had been arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.– and that one of the men arrested -James W McCord-had close connections to the President himself, being the co-ordinator of the committee to re-elect the President. Like the others, McCord had an unbelievable background having worked for the FBI and the CIA while the others were either underground operatives, former security personnel ,Cuban revolutionaries or similar.  Some members of this group and others, would later become known as members of, or connected to, another secretive Nixon group called  “The White House Plumbers”.

However, none of this was of great concern to the voting public in November 1972. In fact, the Watergate incident was often referred to as ” The Watergate Caper” and was looked upon as an oddity and an almost comedic episode. No one realised at the time how accurate Senator McGovern had been in his comments, nor that the “caper” concerned would lead to the unprecedented resignation of a President.

I suppose that 40 years on, there will be many who will be familiar with the roles played by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post in exposing the extent of the scandal and the attempted cover up by the Whitehouse. Further the terms ” Deep Six” and “Deep Throat” have come into common usage as a result of the subsequent investigation and publicity.

” Deep Throat” of course was the mysterious whistle blowing source who would meet  journalist Bob Woodward at 2:00 am in an underground car park. Later it was revealed that Deep Throat was in fact William Mark Felt, Sr., the former Deputy Director of the FBI.

However, what is often forgotten, is that the final nail in the Nixon political coffin was delivered by The US Supreme Court when it ruled unanimously that the President must hand over the tapes he had kept of various conversations with aides at the time– such secret tapes being recorded on devices and bugs which had been installed by the previously mentioned White House Plumbers.

When Nixon’s lawyers heard the tapes concerned, they immediately advised the President to resign to avoid being impeached– as the Tapes showed quite clearly that the President had become aware of the Whitehouse’s involvement in the break in within six days of the event ( Nixon had gone on record saying that he only found out about any connections to the Whitehouse staff some 9 months after the arrests ), and crucially it recorded Nixon instructing FBI personnel to have the CIA cover the whole thing up.

In short, while Woodward and Bernstein dug and dug up the leads and the evidence, it was the formal ruling of the court that made Nixon toast!

Within days of the ruling he formally resigned and retired with his full Presidential pension, and his successor, Gerald Ford, more or less immediately granted him a full pardon.

By the time the entire matter played out,the scandal had resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon’s top administration officials. Among the officials forced to step down were the Attorney General, The Secretary of State for Commerce, a Vice President, The White House Chief of Staff, The President’s Counsel and of course the President himself.

Senator McGovern had been right on the money!

If anything, the lesson from Watergate must be that an attempt to cover up the truth by people in power will ultimately fail, especially where concealed evidence, such as tape recordings, are revealed, and where there is a whistle blower or whistle blowers who have access to inquisitive members of the press. This is even more obviously the case where those covering up- or attempting to cover up – the truth hold public office and are in charge of the Administration of affairs which affect many people in society. Lastly, no matter what power may be held by the perpetrator, what office he or she may hold or what influence they can bring to bear, everyone is subject to the rule of law and the decision of a court acting in proper fashion.

It is for that reason, that every sports journalist, every sports administrator  every sport watching member of the public, every blogger or internet bampot should be absolutely focused on the events currently taking place in a court house in Madrid.

Whilst there was indeed an amazing Summer of Sport in 2012, the winter of 2012 and spring of 2013 threatens to to be far more significant.

In a matter of just a few weeks we have seen a 7 times Tour de France winner stripped of his titles. We have seen hordes of Australian athletes disgraced and all sport in that country thrown into turmoil. Yet- all of that will potentially be as nothing if the events in Madrid play out in the way many expect.

Is it coincidence that Sepp Blatter has suddenly announced that Football will soon adopt the practice of having players provide a blood passport at major championships? Is it a coincidence that football is to increase its activities when it comes to drugs testing? Is it a coincidence that the world of tennis is to carry out specific doping tests on certain players who have connections to a certain doctor who was banned from all sports as a result of the Lance Armstrong affair?

No– it is no coincidence at all- in fact it is all in preparation for decisions to be made in that Madrid court– the ramifications of which may well be felt all around the world .

The Court concerned is the setting for the trial of a half dozen people, of whom the key player is Dr Eufimiano Fuentes, who is accused of the relatively minor crime of endangering the public health– although I dare say he will not view the charges as minor if convicted, as he could end up in jail for a period of two years!

As many will know, Dr Fuentes has direct links to Lance Armstrong and many other cyclists who have been involved in blood doping,drug taking and everything that one can imagine surrounding the supply of performance enhancing drugs to sportsmen. It is something that he does not in anyway seek to conceal, arguing  instead that what he does is actually legal in the eyes of the law– because his treatments are all medically approved, involve clinically tested drugs, and are conducted under medical supervision. To be fair he also has some other arguments in relation to the trial, but it is this technical argument that concerns us here.

If, the drugs concerned, and the taking of those drugs, turns out to be against the rules of various world sports, then that is not Dr Fuentes concern– that, he says, is a problem for the athletes and the sports concerned– not him!

It is this stance that makes Fuentes so dangerous to the sporting world because he is a willing and educated whistle blower extraordinaire, and if he is acquitted it paves the way for other members of the medical profession– and there are many— who provide similar sports enhancing services, to adopt the same line if and when they are effectively challenged in a court– and drugs issues have a habit of ending up in court..

Of even greater concern is the physical evidence that was recovered when Fuentes was arrested. In a raid on his Madrid flat, the Police recovered between 180 and 300 bags of blood ( the number varies depending on which report you read ) together with abundant supplies of EPO, Steroids, Growth Hormone and alleged masking agents and other drugs and equipment. Fuentes was originally arrested by the Spanish Police in connection with Operation Puerta in 2006, but was arrested again in 2009 as part of Operación Galgo (Operation Greyhound). In a series of simultaneous raids across five provinces on 9 December, Spanish police seized a large quantity of anabolic steroids, hormones and EPO, as well as laboratory equipment for blood transfusions.

As well as the technical arguments I have outlined above, Fuentes has said that much of this drug haul was for his own personal use! If that is the case then we can conclude that he is either very unwell if he needs that amount of drugs— or incredibly fit indeed if he takes that quantity of performance enhancing substances.

Fuentes connection to professional cyclists is well known and is well documented. However, of the coded bags of blood recovered, only 25% relate to cyclists. The remainder are said to belong to Footballers, Athletes, Tennis Players and Boxers!

Before the trial, a fellow inmate who shared a cell with Fuentes stated that the good doctor said that if he tells all that he knows then Spain will be stripped of both the Football World Cup and the European Championship! However, we do not need to rely on the word of a rather dubious prison inmate for such spectacular revelations, because Fuentes himself has offered to give up the names of all of his clients who had stored blood samples with him!

However, for the purposes of these current hearings, the Spanish Court has ruled that it will only hear evidence concerning the cyclists. Accordingly, when Fuentes took the stand the other day he was only asked about those samples and that evidence relating to cyclists, and so no mention was made of the majority of samples recovered which belong to athletes from other sports.

However, that is in relation to these proceedings– which will obviously come to an end at some point– with the result that Fuentes will find himself in custody or walking about as a free man. Either way, he is then free to say what he wants about the bags of blood and his client list. He may of course take the view that he is bound by a duty to keep his clients’ identities confidential but there are mounting pressures from WADA ( The World Anti Doping Agency ), The Italian Olympic Committee and others to ensure that Fuentes and others like him are forced to spill the beans– by law!

At the end of the trial, the question will arise about what to do with the bags of blood?

Any normal patient would be free to step forward and claim back their own blood, but surprise surprise there is no rush of claims from the rightful owners– and so the court will have to decide what to do with the samples.

Again WADA have weighed in and demanded access at least to the bags for testing with a view to identifying to whom the blood belongs. Other sporting organisations such as FIFA have made some noises about what should happen– though these are a touch unconvincing because no sport wants a scandal– apart from maybe one– and that one is cycling– or at least certain factions within cycling.

These guys take the view that their sport has been the whipping boy of the drugs world and the press. Many point out that while lots of cyclists have been tested positive for drugs etc, this comes about because cyclists face much more testing at key periods and that cycling is a sport where a Doctor and his drugs can actually change the whole result.

Some have pointed out that while the number of positive tests in football is far fewer than in cycling, the number of positives taken as a percentage of tests carried out is actually higher! If it were the case that other sports were seen to be just as bad if not worse than cycling when it comes to drug abuse, then the image of cycling itself would actually benefit and so some within cycling are taking the view that the silent dopers in other sports should be outed very publicly.

Whatsmore, the finger is pointed at some big names from other sports who have been caught and who appear to be given an easy ride in comparison to their cycling counterparts. There is no bigger name in football management that Pep Guardiola yet it is often overlooked that he is one of those footballers who tested positive for nandrolone and was banned– as were others such as Frank de Boer, Fernando Couto, Edgar Davids, Christophe Dugarry, Diego Maradona, Romario, Jaap Stam, Kolo Toure, Abel Xavier, and many others.

As a result of this particular trial further evidence and revelations have come to the fore. It has been revealed that one major Spanish Football Club (Real Sociedad) has paid Fuentes some £288,000 over past seasons in return for certain drugs and procedures. This has been revealed by the current president of the club concerned. Further, another witness has stated that he knows of world famous football stars who were frequent visitors to Fuentes’ clinic– of these two were allegedly Brazilian!

There is repeated speculation that links Fuentes and /or other doctors caught up in the Lance Armstrong case with various clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and others. Former stars are now being questioned as to previous statements including Zinedene Zidane who apparently revealed to a third party that he went for half yearly blood transfusion treatment during his playing career.

Zidane of course spent a considerable part of his early career at Juventus– a club which has had its reputation severely damaged by drugs. Their club doctor was imprisoned for a period of over two years having been convicted of supplying the star players of the club with a concoction of performance enhancing drugs in the 1990’s. The players involved are too many to mention but just about anyone you can think of, including the current manager, gets a dishonourable mention. Recent studies from Italy suggest that 220,000 people in the country use drugs that are banned by WADA.

Yet, forget Italy and forget the past, as WADA have accused the current and very controversial Bayern Munich doctor, Dr Muller-Wohlfahrt, of “Frankenstein-type experiments”. It has been said that  Muller-Wohlfahrt Injects current players with calf-blood. Actovegin, is a calf-blood extract that boosts oxygen uptake in the blood and is used allegedly by Bayern on a regular basis. WADA state that the Munich doctor has proceeded with this treatment despite the fact that neither he nor anyone else has had the drug’s effects on humans studied or tested properly.

Further the drug itself has has remarkably similar reported properties to EPO and so WADA has banned certain uses of it.

In the world of Tennis, The International Tennis Federation and anti-doping agencies have stepped up efforts to expose any tennis players with links to a notorious Spanish doctor who was given a life ban from all sport for his role in the Lance Armstrong scandal.

Dr Luis García del Moral, who was banned by US anti-doping officials when they published their evidence against Armstrong and his US Postal team last year, is based in Valencia and had a 15-year association with tennis players from the nearby TenisVal Academy.

The ITF was so concerned about Del Moral’s alleged links to tennis players that it sent a message to all tennis professionals telling them not to work with him.  Yet this same Doctor is said to have links to FC Barcelona and to Valencia……. and on and on it goes.

The fact is that drug taking in football and other sports is suddenly a hot topic. It is a topic that repeatedly now comes before the courts of law which even the likes of FIFA and the IFT cannot ignore– although everyone knows that the world of football at least prefers to ignore all courts if at all possible, preferring to refer everything to the court of arbitration for sport which rules purely on sporting matters. National courts tend to stray into areas and have powers that the likes of FIFA or UEFA would rather avoid.

Further, information now becomes available which the sporting press cannot ignore and the matter is being reported on more and more. Among the journalists based in Scotland, Tom English has written extensively in recent weeks on the events surrounding the Madrid court case, and in the past Graham Hunter caused near apoplexy on a live Irish Radio Show when he calmly reported that Barcelona’s Xavi was receiving growth hormone treatment for an injury! The hosts on the radio show nearly choked when this snippet came out on air and the conversation quickly moved on after the initial incredulity. Now there are many forms of growth treatment which are apparently legal– but it is very easy to stray across a thin dividing line and at the end of the day sport and drugs provides a combination which is big business– very big business.

Yet, while all of this activity is taking place in the open and for all to see, the potential seriousness of the position is not fully understood yet as I see it.

There are increasingly worrying statistics of fit young men and women involved in top class sport who, for whatever reason, suffer heart attacks and other medical malfunctions at a very early age. The number of unexpected and initially unexplained deaths among young sports people appears to be on the rise and with each one we get autopsies and enquiries which all lead to the courts– whether they be civil proceedings or criminal.

This then brings me back to the comparison to Nixon, because eventually the courts in any number of countries will demand the delivery of blood samples, tests, drugs,buying orders, supply lines and so on thus setting the whole thing out in the open with various findings in fact and law.

For sport, and for Sports bodies like FIFA that is a nightmare.

We have already seen businesses who sponsored Lance Armstrong’s team go to court and seek recovery of millions of pounds on the basis that Armstrong’s continued success was based on a fraudulent drug taking scheme. Businesses do not want to be connected to such sportsmen and sports by way of sponsorship and funding.

There have already been calls– by none other than Louis van Gaal— to have Juventus stripped of the 1996 Champion’s league trophy won at the height of their drug taking scandal– and to have that trophy awarded to Ajax instead. If it becomes clear that we have been living in a period when results can be nullified because of drug taking- how many records and awards will have to be re – written like the Tour de France results?

Yannick Noah, the former French Tennis player has openly questioned some recent results in major Tennis championships and has suggested that the truth will out and that in time the records may have to be re-written.

WADA officials have expressed the opinion that the revelation of a drug taking epidemic in British sport is almost inevitable given the recent findings in Australia. Not a possibility, not a probability– but almost inevitable.

In short, if Fuentes speaks openly at the end of his trial and reveals who he has treated over a course of years then virtually all of sport as we know it is open to question and suspicion—- and that is bad for business, bad for sponsorship, bad for the public, bad for the clean sportsmen and women, and bad for the paying customer at the door. This then leads others to suggest that for years, certain parties in sports administration have tried to keep drug taking outside of cycling under the carpet….. something that is now clearly a losing battle.

But the Tsunami has not yet hit but it does seem visible from the shore and can be quite clearly seen to be coming– which is why the world bodies of various sports are suddenly sweeping into action in an attempt to prove that they have now adopted ( albeit with great reluctance ) WADA standards of drug testing and compliance– in short they are getting their retaliation in first before the really bad press starts hitting home.

Imagine it becomes plain that the Spanish National Football team has been awash with dopers? Think of the scandal– the outrage expressed by other countries– the re-writing of records and so on.

Think of the overdrafts of Madrid and Barcelona– if certain sponsors and investors, on being told that the chemists had been operating at the Camp Nou or the Bernabau, take the same view as those who were connected to Armstrong in America and seek to recover monies previously given to support those teams– the effect on those two clubs could be catastrophic– same with Valencia and other clubs throughout Spain and indeed the rest of Europe.

Mastercard were one of the Champion’s league sponsors for long enough– if they sought a return of that sponsorship from UEFA on the basis that the competitions they sponsored were fatally flawed by the use of illegal drugs which UEFA did practically nothing about– how would UEFA cope? What would or could happen to TV revenue if it were shown that much of what we have been watching is in fact a drug related sham?

However, remember precisely what Senator McGovern said regarding Nixon! He did not say this was the most corrupt President that the USA had ever seen, he said that the President’s Administration was the most corrupt ever seen– and at the end of the day while 5 men were caught breaking into the Watergate building, nearer 40 were eventually charged and tried with offences– which did not relate to the break in itself but were connected to the cover up.

Who knows what within UEFA and FIFA or within within the ITF?

What evidence, if any, lies within those organisations and which has been sat on?

Anecdotal stories of drug taking in football go back to the 50’s and surround such major figures as Helennio Herrera, Franz Beckenbaur and many others.

There have been allegations of major teams leaving behind syringes and the likes in dressing rooms– yet nothing is said.

For the Scottish FA and for Scots within UEFA this whole situation could be a major problem. The SFA seems to have major problems in policing and monitoring things such as the proper lodging of accounts and documents of registration. There are those who will argue that the SFA cannot see conflicts of interests which are obvious. There are those who will argue that the SFA are not too good at either implementing UEFA initiatives or standing up to UEFA or FIFA– and of course the SFA are not awash with money and if we are going to see far more policing then someone has to pay for it.

So what happens if it becomes known that the Scottish National team were beaten in tournament qualifiers by another national team which fielded medically enhanced players? What happens if it is shown that the Scottish co-efficient was adversely affected by results against doped teams? Or where a Scottish club lost out to another team in European competition where that team was a product of both the training ground and the chemists?

Will the SFA stand up for Scottish interests? Does it have the personnel to do that? Does it have the credibility within its own ranks to be a voice in the event of such a course of events unravelling?

Whilst there is much angst in this country about league reconstruction, the consequences of the Fuentes trial and the imbalance of power and money within UEFA could make all of that seem like a picnic if the European Governing body is seen to lean towards the administrations which would appear to have a greater drug culture than others.

Whilst it is not just football that waits with bated breath for the fall out from Dr Fuentes’ trial, the consequences for football are huge and potentially endless.

In the aftermath of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book detailing their experiences and their reporting of all that surrounded the events that took place at the Watergate centre. As many will know that book became famous and was called All The President’s Men.

The name of the book alludes to the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty –“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men / Couldn’t put Humpty together again”

I wonder who will end up being Humpty Dumpty at the end of the Fuentes affair?

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7 Responses to “The Whitehouse Plumbers, Humpty Dumpty, Senator George McGovern and a trip to the Doctors and the Lawyers!”

  1. Auldheid February 20, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Magic BRTH.

    Just hope the old “Woodbine” does not contain any questionable elements or Scottish football’s history is fecked. 🙂

  2. manandboy February 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed your piece and I thank you for it.

    Looks like things could get pretty messy.

    My concern is that corruption in society has become so great that we will all be overwhelmed by it even as we try to root it out.

    Anyway, congrats on your piece.

    Hope you stick around for a long time.

    Woodward, Bernstein & Strandsky – looks like a fit.

  3. finloch February 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    A superb piece.

    After Lance Armstrong and then the Australian doping stuff the story of Dr Fuentes and the Madrid court case should be on every MSM sports news bulletin but it isn’t.

    I have just heard it courtesy of one of the internet’s finest bampots.

    Thank you.

  4. Parity , clarity , taxation and charity February 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Wonderful stuff.

  5. jw hardin February 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Informative and alarming piece. Congrats.

    Would bet my wooden leg Big Pharm lurks behind the scene in their attempt to introduce new products to push.

  6. Carl31 (@C4rl31) February 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Great piece again. 
    My mind wanders from actual doping to financial doping and the various ‘players’ in that arena. There are those trying to get away with it, the poacher companies, and those lawyers eager to assist – since money can be made either way. Then there are the HMRC (in the UK) gamekeepers which are represented by their lawyers who are paid, I have no doubt, far less than those representing the poachers. One side v the other – the continual struggle by one to avoid the exchequer’s sponge like soaking up of company funds, and the quest by the other to ensure duty is met in the interests of the Public.
    When considering the parallels in actual doping there appears a flaw. The gamekeepers have somewhat similar interests as the poachers. There are corporate and individual sponsorship deals that hang on the constant clamour from the paying public for the diaspora of sportsmen and sportswomen to play harder/faster/better, to exceed and excel, and to go for longer. This is not a rival clash of poacher v gamekeeper similar to tax avoider v Hector. Instead there is more than a sniff, particularly in cycling going only by what is currently in the public domain, but in most other high profile sports, of a charade of ‘we test – thus our sport is clean’. Meanwhile, in the real world of sport under the public eye’s radar, various physios, medicos and chemists are coming up with ever more inventive means of enhancing performance artificially.
    Not to say the tax avoider v Hector is a perfect arrangement, but in sport it may just be the case that some public interest intervention is required. Maybe the issue is that conflict of interest at a corporate or executive level is too much of an influence on matters. The public interest in the integrity of sport should be better represented, or even further – it should be paramount.
    A system should be imposed whereby fines for doping should be paid to the public purse, both by the culprit and the relevant governing body that has failed to catch them. It is not just the rules or the corporate sponsors who have been cheated, but more importantly the public have been cheated.

  7. Mick Flannigan February 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Excellent piece and I agree; if this explodes it could have catastrophic implications for the future and for the history of sport. Baseball, America’s national game, has already had its PEDs scandal – http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22247395/ – and the consequences of that were far reaching. As the piece says, FIFA won’t want this in the courts and I can guarantee there will be much work going on behind the scenes of FIFA and governments all over the planet to minimise these results getting out. Grim days ahead.

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