Sports
3:37 am
Sat October 20, 2012

Week In Sports: A Tough One For Lance Armstrong

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 1:21 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The San Francisco Giants live to play again, thanks to a pitcher thought to be past his prime. He was sure blue-ribbon last night. Lance Armstrong got a standing O last night but also heard from a few folks who might want their money back, just as major corporate sponsors might. And more NHL games are put on ice - or is that none are on the ice? NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin with Barry Zito. Of course, he won the American League Cy Young award in 2002, with the Oakland A's. He signed an A-Rod-sized contract with San Francisco, and some of us lost track of him. But last night, he threw seven innings of shutout, championship baseball.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he kind of resuscitated that once-great career, and helped keep his team from being eliminated from the playoffs. All in a night's work. Yeah, he held the Cardinals scoreless in the Giants' 5-0 win in Game Five of the National League Championship Series. He had fantastic control. He only throws a fastball about 85 miles an hour; that's his top speed. But he was placing his pitches everywhere - in and around the strike zone. His catcher, Buster Posey, called it the art of pitching.

Zito's basically been a nowhere man since signing that whopper contract you're talking about, with San Francisco, at the end of 2006. After that, he had five straight losing seasons. This year, signs of life; he went 15 and 8. And last night, his best game in a Giants uniform. Very well done.

SIMON: Yeah. We've got to get to Lance Armstrong. What a week. He resigned his post as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer awareness foundation. And the same day Nike and a lot of his other - I guess most of his other sponsors, corporate sponsors - declared a divorce. He spoke last night in Austin, at the Livestrong fundraiser. What did he say?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. It was his first public appearance since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released that scathing doping report about Armstrong and others, 10 days ago. The crowd of 1,700, at the Austin Convention Center, gave him a standing ovation. He said he was truly humbled by the support. He went on: "It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and the foundation." And here's a little bit more of what he said, Scott.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: I get asked a lot - people say, man, how you doing? And I say - and I say this every time, and I mean it. I say, I've been better, but I've also been worse.

GOLDMAN: Now, Lance Armstrong didn't talk directly about the USADA - the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency - report, or the doping charges against him. His basic message was one in support of the Livestrong Foundation, and the donors that he addressed. He said, "the mission is bigger than me. It's bigger than any individual."

SIMON: There are other shoes set to drop in this case, aren't there?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Monday, cycling's governing body is holding a press conference, to respond to the USADA report. And it's expected to announce its course of action; whether it's going to appeal the report, and the sanctions that USADA imposed - a lifetime ban for Armstrong from Olympic sports, and stripping him of his competitive results, including his seven Tour de France titles - or agreeing with USADA and then Armstrong, in fact, would be stripped.

SIMON: Do you see corporate sponsors - and for that matter, I even heard some contributors to Livestrong saying, they want their money back.

GOLDMAN: You know - I hate to put it this way - time will tell; we'll see. Livestrong's public message, at this point, is it will survive - and thrive - without Armstrong being a very active part. He's still on the board, but he's not chairman.

SIMON: And I'd hoped to wind up on a positive note. But instead, I have to ask you, is there going to be a National Hockey League season?

GOLDMAN: I don't know. You know, hockey fans hope for that old, darkest-before-the-dawn kind of thing because right now, it's getting pretty dark. The NHL announced yesterday it's canceling all regular season games through November 1st. There could be more canceled. I don't know; we'll see.

SIMON: Time will tell.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.