Thursday 31 May 2018

Florentino Faces Battlestar Galactico

The Frenchman always had a perfect sense of timing on the field and never better exemplified than at Hampden Park when he scored a superb volley in the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002. A valuable reward to his paymasters, Real Madrid, only a year after he had become the world’s most expensive player after leaving Juventus for Spain. As a manager he carried the same poise on the side lines following his low-key entrance as a replacement for Rafael Benitez. On Thursday he opted out of another few – undoubtedly financially lucrative - years under Florentino Pérez in a similar low-key way by resigning. Or not renewing his much-discussed contract. 

In essence leaving the way he entered football management – quietly – and announcing it in it to a startled press gallery. Departing a club and perhaps a city he had become synonymous with over recent decades, badly shaken. 

Although Zidane’s career has been a series of amazing records as a player and now as a manager. But it is perhaps the accumulation of so much silverware in only two and half seasons as a first-time manager at one of the greatest clubs in the world, that is the most stunning. Only bettered by club legend Miguel Munoz who steered the players at the Santiago Bernabeu - after being a player for the club first himself- and winning the European Cup nine times - five in a row as well as another four times. 

In those days though qualification for Europe was onloy achieved by winning La Liga and that Munoz did between 1960 and 1972 when Real Madrid dominated Europe. Unlike today where the route to qualification is different and the top 2, 3 or even four in some leagues get to qualify. 

For Zidane three times in a row in the Champions League in as many years puts him alongside legends such as Udo Lattek who won three in a row with Bayern Munich in the mid-seventies and Rinus Michels at Ajax Amsterdam during the same era. Regardless, the dismal record in La Liga began over those three years began to cost him points with Florentino the man synonymous with the term Galacticos. 

In his two eras at the helm Perez has managed expectations, as well as setting them very high. The club continues a relentless expansion and now a virtual money machine able to exploit every aspect for a high commercial return and can easily afford now to attract the top players. But it has been the second of his tenures that have really delivered, and he is seen as the indomitable force behind the Real Madrid’s ambition. So, when the news was announced on Thursday the man most devastated in some ways was Perez himself. As he had not been expecting it somehow. Not after Kyiv. 

Yet it had been common knowledge that as he values La Liga almost more than Europe given the rivalry with Barcelona it continues to be a barometer domestically for Madridistas. This year Real Madrid were not even within touching distance of Barca lagging 17 points behind them when the Catalan club were declared campeones. Perhaps Perez had applied added pressure on Zidane, the man he encrusted after Benítez, and who in his first role at the top table accumulated 9 titles. La Liga: 2016–17; Super Copa de España: 2017 UEFA Champions League: 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18 UEFA Super Cup: 2016, 2017 and FIFA Club World Cup: 2016, 2017. 

An impressive palmarès for an apprentice manager and one who the club’s fans thought hoped might remain to establish a dynasty akin to that of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. But football isn’t like that these days, longevity is not easy given the tumultuous daily pressure, and a shrewd Zidane saw that it could only be downhill from here on in following victory in Kyiv. Also facing a squad in need of changes with Karin Benzema and Sergio Ramos on the wrong side of thirty, and other player unrest in the shape of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo 

On Thursday Zizou sensibly decided it was time to get out of Dodge. 

Zidane - Real Madrid
La Liga: 2016–17[191]
Supercopa de España: 2017
UEFA Champions League: 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
UEFA Super Cup: 2016, 2017
FIFA Club World Cup: 2016, 2017

Miguel Munoz - Real Madrid 
European Cup: 1959–60, 1965–66 
Intercontinental Cup: 1960 
La Liga: 1960–61, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1971–72 
Copa del Rey: 1961–62, 1969–70 
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Runner-up 1970–71

Jamaican Nesta Carter Loses Appeal

Nesta Carter has lost his appeal against the decision to strip him and a Jamaica team including Usain Bolt of Olympic gold after a positive drugs test. A sample taken from Carter at the 2008 Games in Beijing was found last January to have contained a banned stimulant.
That meant the Jamaican 4x100m team had to forfeit gold. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) ruled: "Reanalysis confirmed the presence of methylhexaneamine."

The Jamaican team featured Carter, Bolt, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell.

A judgement said: "We [do] not accept any of the arguments raised by Nesta Carter contending that the test results should be ignored or that the decision should otherwise be overturned for certain alleged failures.

"Accordingly, the Cas panel dismissed the appeal and the decision is confirmed."

Carter appealed against the decision last February and a hearing was held in Switzerland in November.  The now-retired Bolt completed an unprecedented 'triple triple' of gold medals in Rio in 2016, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling to punish the Jamaica team left him with eight Olympic titles.

Speaking in January, 31-year-old Bolt - who also won 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016 - said it was "rough" to have to give back one of his medals but that it hadn't changed "what I have done throughout my career". Carter's was one of 454 selected doping samples retested by the IOC in 2016 and was found to contain the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

That has been on the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) prohibited list since 2004, and was reclassified in 2011 as a "specified substance" - meaning one that is more susceptible to a "credible, non-doping explanation".

Carter was also part of the 4x100m team in London five years ago and helped Jamaica win at the World Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Zidane Says Real Au Revoir in Madrid

Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as Real Madrid manager just five days after leading them to a third straight Champions League triumph. The Frenchman told a news conference that "everything changes" and "that's why I took this decision". He leaves Real Madrid having guided the Spanish club to three successive Champions League titles and one La Liga success since taking over in January 2016. 

"I love this club," Zidane added, "What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology. his is the right moment for all involved - for me, for the squad, for the club."

Zidane, 45, took over after Rafael Benitez was sacked and was in charge for 149 games. He steered Real to 104 wins and 29 draws, had 69.8% win rate, and won nine trophies. However, the Madrid club finished third in La Liga in 2017-18 - a total of 17 points behind champions and fierce rivals Barcelona. They were also knocked out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage by Leganes. Then Zidane said would walk away if he felt "there is nothing more to give".

The timing of his announcement came as a shock just days after Real beat Liverpool 3-1 in the Champions League final. That win saw ZZ join Bob Paisley (three at Liverpool) and Carlo Ancelotti (AC Milan two, Real Madrid one) as the only managers to have won the Champions League/European Cup three times.

Now the search starts for a replacement and the rumour machines go into gear with Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino once again linked with Real. Albeit the Argentine signed a new five-year contract at Spurs just last week.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri could also come into the frame, while Arsene Wenger wants to carry on in management after leaving Arsenal after 22 years in charge. Italian Maurizio Sarri, most recently of Napoli, is also available. As is former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, As always the decision on who will next manage Real will be made by club president Florentino Perez.

Zidane with Florentino Perez on Thursday

On Thursday Perez accompanied Zidane at the news conference and said he wanted to keep the France 1998 World Cup winner. "This was a totally unexpected decision. Zidane informed me of his choice yesterday," added Perez, "This is a sad day for me, for the players and for everyone involved with the club. He knows that I wanted to sign him more than anyone as a player, as well as a coach.

"I would love for him to be by my side forever."

The Zidane departure also comes after Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo revealed they were contemplating their futures at the club. The Wales forward Bale unhappy at being named as a substitute against Liverpool. Meanwhile Ronaldo said last weekend he will soon make an announcement about his future. But asked if his decision was anything to do with Ronaldo, Zidane said: "No."

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Sports Quotes - Shaquille O'Neal

"Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly."

Shaquille O'Neal

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Ronaldo is Real Problem for Zidane

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Zinedine Zidane has insisted that there is harmony in the Real Madrid dressing room after Cristiano Ronaldo had criticised his team-mates.

Following Real’s 1-0 defeat to Atlético Madrid which left them 12 points off top-of-the-table Barcelona, Ronaldo had said: “If we were all at my level, maybe we would be leaders.

“I don’t want to disrespect anyone, but when the best players aren’t available it’s harder to win. I like to play with Karim [Benzema], with [Gareth] Bale, with Marcelo. I’m not saying the others like Lucas Vazquez, Jesé [Rodriguez] and Mateo Kovacic are not good players. They are very good players, but it’s not the same.”

Ronaldo later back-tracked on the comments, apologising to his team-mates via WhatsApp and telling Marca: “I was referring to the physical level, not level of play. I am not better than any of my team-mates.”

The Real coach Zidane said on Tuesday: “Cristiano has spoken to everyone, with me and all, the matter is past.

“We know the importance of Cristiano and we’re all with him. What’s important is what we have ahead of us and we’ll get through it together.”

Real’s captain Sergio Ramos also attempted to play the comments down, saying: “I know Cristiano well and I don’t think he was trying to shift the blame on to any of his team-mates.”

Real visit Levante on Wednesday with their hopes for La Liga written off and Zidane will make a number of changes after Luka Modric joined the injury list with an ankle problem, though Pepe is back in a 19-man squad.

Ramos and Dani Carvajal are rested while Marcelo, who has muscle fatigue, and Karim Benzema, with a thigh muscle problem, are out.

Bale rejoined his team-mates in practice for the first time since mid-January when he suffered a calf injury, but was not included and could return on Saturday at home to Celta Vigo.

OSM - Cheika in League of His Own

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Sporting Legends - Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Evonne Goolagong was perhaps the most graceful of female Grand Slam champions, as well as one of the most talented, and the fact that this talent was frequently undermined by a tendency to switch off in mid-match only served to endear her even more to tennis fans.

Her transition from the daughter of a sheep shearer to world No.1 tennis player and a winner of seven Grand Slam titles, including two Wimbledons, is one to which even the tag of “fairy tale” hardly does justice.

As 1977 Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade so succinctly put it: “Evonne played with a kind of giddy pleasure. She was not playing foranything. She played because she loved it.”

Goolagong was brought up in the New South Wales town of Barellan, the third of eight children. She was spotted peering through the fence at the local tennis courts and encouraged to come in and try the game. Her potential brought Vic Edwards, the proprietor of a Sydney tennis school, on a 650-mile round trip to Barellan on a tip-, and having seen her play, he sought, and was given, permission from Evonne’s parents Kenny and Melinda to take her to Sydney. He became her legal guardian, installing the 15-year-old at his home and covering the costs of her education and tennis as he undertook what he deemed an “interesting” challenge - “to see how she would go in tennis if properly handled”.

She made her Wimbledon debut at the 1970 Championships, aged 18, and such was the interest that her match against the American Peaches Bartkowicz was scheduled for Centre Court. “I thought it was fine until I got out there,” she said after she had lost.

The following year could not have been more different. Goolagong came back to Europe, won the French Open and then went on to win Wimbledon too, defeating fellow Australian and childhood idol Margaret Court, 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

She was an instant darling of the crowds, not only because of a sunny disposition but because her play was so natural and carefree. That sometimes it was too carefree did not seem to matter - people wanted her to win because they were witnessing spontaneous tennis played by someone who did not have a Plan A, let alone a Plan B.

This inconsistency is starkly set out by Goolagong’s Grand Slam record. She claimed seven singles titles but was runner-up in 11 others. Four times in a row she won the Australian Open (1974-77), but she also lost four finals in succession (1973-76) at the US Open, the only Grand Slam where she never became champion.

At Wimbledon from 1972 to 1976 (the year she was briefly ranked world No.1) she was three times runner-up and once a semi-finalist. On the eve of the 1975 Championships she married the Briton Roger Cawley, a union which caused an immediate fracture with Vic Edwards and which might have been a reason for the enormity of her loss to Billie Jean King in the final, 6-0, 6-1.

After missing out the 1977 season to give birth to a daughter, Kelly, Goolagong’s return to the court climaxed with Wimbledon victory at the age of 29 in 1980, 6-1, 7-6 over Chris Evert. “I had something to prove I guess,” she said. “When I won my first Wimbledon I thought that’s nice. But winning for the second time meant more because I was a lot more professional then.”

A year later her son Morgan was born and she retired in 1983, with an impressive Wimbledon singles record of 49-9. She also won the women’s doubles in 1974 alongside Peggy Michel and made the final of the mixed doubles with Kim Warwick in 1972.

Post Playing Career
Evonne became increasingly involved in Aboriginal issues and a rediscovery of her own extended Wiradjuri clan family prompted the Cawley's to leave their American base in Florida and return to Australia to live.

In 1993, Evonne's autobiography 'Home! The Evonne Goolagong Story' was published and became an immediate best seller.

In 1995/6 she was a board member of the Australian Sports Commission then in July 1997, Evonne signed a contract with the Federal government to become a consultant in the area of indigenous sport and the 'Evonne Goolagong Sports Trust' was formed.

In 1998, Tennis Australia appointed Evonne as a special 'Ambassador' and together they formed the 'Evonne Goolagong Getting Started Programme' to increase overall female participation in tennis.

In December 1998, the 'Goolagong Cup' was piloted in Ballarat, Victoria. Run by the Federation Cup Foundation this is a Fed Cup style competition based in country areas with each Country Tennis Association sending a team of girls. The 'Goolagong Cup' is now contested in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Since 2000, Evonne has made an increasing commitment to Australian Women's tennis, and was captain of the Australian Fed Cup Team in 2002/03.

Singles Champion:1971, 1980
Singles Runner-up:1972, 1975, 1976
Singles Champion:1971, 1980
Singles Runner-up:1972, 1975, 1976
Doubles Champion:1974
Mixed Doubles Runner-up:1972

Sports Quotes - Sir Tony McCoy

"During every race, an ambulance trails the riders around the course. You know that sometimes you are going to end up in the back of that ambulance."

Sir Tony McCoy

Quotes - Louis van Gaal

England Players Raise Russian Racism Concerns

England players have discussed what to do if subjected to racism during the World Cup in Russia this summer, says Manchester United's Ashley Young. The Russian Football Union was recently fined £22,000 for racist chants by fans in a friendly against France in March.

"When we're on the pitch I'm not sure how you would react to it," said 32-year-old wing-back Young, "We'll talk about it, and we have talked about it, in the squad - what to do and what not to do.", adding  "Hopefully Fifa, if anything is to come about, will be able to deal with it."

France players Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and N'Golo Kante were said to be among those subjected to abuse in their side's 3-1 win over the World Cup hosts. 'Maybe it's his background' - Nedum Onuoha on Raheem Sterling's negative media portrayal. The game was played at Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, which is one of the host venues for this summer's event.

A statement from football's world governing body said Fifa had a "zero tolerance approach" to discrimination. However, Lord Ouseley, chairman of anti-racism campaign group Kick It Out, called the fine by Fifa "pitiful". 'Players will try to wind up people'

Manchester United's Young was involved in confrontation with England team-mate and Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli when their teams played each other last October. Then United won 1-0 and, although Young says the pair have "had a laugh and a joke before in the previous squad", he knows England's players need to be wary of provocation in Russia

"You know on the pitch players will try to wind up people," he said. "They might try to target certain people. It happens in club football. "It's just one of those things but we have to keep 11 players on the pitch at all times and I think there's enough experience throughout the whole squad to know, if someone is being wound up, to pull them away and tell them to calm down or have a word with the referee to make them aware of what is going on.

"We've talked about all sorts of different scenarios. That is kept in-house but I'm sure different things will happen in the tournament."


Tuesday 29 May 2018

Not So Pretty in Pink...... Chris Froome

On Sunday in Rome Chris Froome made history once again by winning the Giro d’Italia in the same calendar year as he secured victory in the Tour de France last July and La Vuelta in September. A feat achieved by the rare few and record that the Kenyan, naturalised Briton, clearly wanted to achieve. And probably dong it the hard way having fallen during his race course recce in Jerusalem and injured himself before the race even started. Battling through the ensuing three weeks to make an impressive breakaway on Monte Zoncolan to shatter the chasers, Simon Yates and Tom Dumoulin. 

Unfortunately, he is also the first cyclists to complete a Grand Tour win while still under investigation for his previous win in Spain. Something which tarnished the bright pink and gold colours that reflected on him in the trophy presentation ceremony on Sunday the shadow the Altare della Patria. The spiral golden trophy presented by Alberto Contador himself a winner of the Giro d’Italia in 2008 and who also competed with no verdict in the clenbuterol case in Operation Puerta in 2010. When the verdict was finally handed down Contador was stripped of the 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d'Italia wins and many other victories. He was also suspended and his contract with Team Saxo Bank annulled. 

The victory on Sunday is Froome sixth Grand Tour title, following last year's fourth Tour de France win and maiden La Vuelta victory, and sees him become only the seventh man to have won all three races. Indeed, just the third to hold all the three titles simultaneously and placing him amongst the greats – such as Eddy Merckx in 1973 and Bernard Hinault nine years. But they were different times and the Vuelta was earlier in the year. In his time Merckx won four straight between 1972 and 1973 and Hinault took three between 1982 and 1983. But in recent years such feats have been rare. So, Chris Froome’s achievements are starting to attract attention. Particularly in a season he is still under investigation by the UCI from a failed test after the Vuelta last September 

At the 2017 Vuelta Froome returned a salbutamol level of 2,000ng/ml in an anti-doping urine test conducted during the final week with a reading that was twice the permitted level set out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The Team Sky rider and his legal team are still attempting to prove that, despite the reading, he did not exceed the permitted dosage. Because if he is found to be guilty, he could face a lengthy suspension and may have results struck from his palmarès – although which ones remains unclear. Froome has always insisted on his innocence and defended his decision to continue racing with the matter unresolved. Something that other riders in other eras may not have been able to do, such are the resources of Team Sky in sport of cycling. 

A report in Cycling news on the subject was suggested Froome's legal team were looking into using kidney malfunction as a defence for Froome, claiming that the cyclist’s kidneys retained salbutamol from previous days before releasing it all at once. Unlike other substances on WADA's banned list, salbutamol is 'specified', meaning Froome does not automatically receive a provisional suspension, and can continue racing. However, the onus is on him to prove how such levels got into his urine sample. Now almost eight months after he was notified of the test results, Froome’s nowhere near conclusion and so could easily drag on through the Tour de France in July and see Froome add to further to his palmarès. A rather unique situation without doubt. 

As if the controversy was not enough as things stood, Froome then delivered the sceptics a performance that tested belief on the last mountain Stage 19 of the Giro. Producing a solo 80 km attack - having started fourth prior to the 184km stage from Venaria Reale - to finish finished 40-seconds ahead of Tom Dumoulin. Who that morning had been over three and half minutes ahead of Froome and just over half a minute behind the then leader Simon Yates. As the Dutchman tried to force the chase to reel in Froome, who by then was the virtual race leader with over 70kms remaining in the stage. But Froome showed no sign of slowing and held a two-minute lead over Dumoulin's chasing group on the ascent of the Sestriere and extended it further to take the King of the Mountains jersey from Yates in the process. In addition, the Maglia Rosa and opened an Irreversible gap just two days from the finish in Rome to ensure that it became ceremonial 

The manner of the breakaway also raised some heckles form sectors, fellow competitors and much social media commentary. For some the performance in Zoncolan bordered on the incredulous and there were some comparisons made with Floyd Landis’ solo win to Morzine at the 2006 Tour de France. Which within four days came to be discredited after a failed post-stage doping test. Leaving Landis travel from hero to zero to become the first winner ever to have the yellow jersey stripped. For Froome’s 80km breakaway to draw comparison amongst fellow riders doesn’t make for very pretty reading. 

However, the Team Sky Director remains defiant: “I think the manner of the victory is the thing that impresses everybody. That's the thing that will stay in everybody's mind. This is going to be such a signature victory of his career,” Sir Dave Brailsford said as Froome wrapped up the title. "The manner that he won this race was absolutely incredible. It's what bike racing is all about — it's exciting, it's spectacular," Mr Brailsford added, “I'm sure it will define his career over time.". Ironic choice of phrase as it may very well define his career someday if the UCI verdict is unfavourable. 

Although the stage route climbs to the top of Colle del Lys (from Viù), after dropping into the Dora Riparia valley and reaching Susa, it climbs once more to the top of Colle delle Finestre with a steady 9.2% gradient throughout with first 9 km on tarmac. Then the last 9 km is a gravel road, all the way to the summit and twenty-nine hairpins tucked in together in less than 4 km over the first part of the climb, A very technical descent follows as the roadway is narrow and initially unprotected, up to Pian dell’Alpe. 

A long uncomplicated climb follows, to the Sestriere categorised summit with a fast drop into Oulx and then a false flat section leading to Bardonecchia. The route takes in the closing climb to the top of Jafferau with a final 7 km run entirely uphill, with sharp 9-10% gradients, topping out at 14% in the first part. As the road narrows in Maillaures, 6 km before the finish, in the steepest section, it leaves only the finish line lies on a 50-m long, 6-m wide home stretch. It is no wonder reactions to that solo performance are mixed given it was almost super human. 

It proved the critical moment of the Giro with Froome when from trailing anonymously in fourth places to outright leader "This was always going to be the biggest challenge of my career," Froome said, "But now I've done the triple and there's no greater award for a professional cyclist. I had every right to be here and as I've said before I know I've done nothing wrong," Froome concluded in his post Gro interviews. 

Yet, even before the opening stage of race in Jerusalem, Tom Dumoulin of the Sunweb Team had plenty to say about Froome’s unresolved salbutamol case: “It’s not good for cycling in general that it’s not solved,” Dumoulin told Sky News. “Everybody is a bit uncertain. If he wins now what will happen if he gets a positive [test result] afterwards? Does he lose his Vuelta title from last year and does he also lose his Giro title? There’s so much uncertainty, nobody benefits, also not Chris Froome. He has the right to race here, it’s his choice to make. It’s not up to me.”, the Dutch rider concluded.

Until we meet again on July 7th 2018 at the Tour de France Grand Depart….

OSM Media @optimum-sports

"It's a real scandal. This has to stop." - Bernard Hinault

French retired cyclists Bernard Hinault has aired his thoughts on Chris Froome's win at the Giro d’Italia victory on Tuesday, saying that the Team Sky rider does not belong in the pantheon of cyclist such as himself and Eddy Merckx. In Rome on Sunday, Froome joined those two famous names by winning Grand Tours consecutively, having won last year’s Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

Bernard Hinault completed his wins between the 1982 and 1983 seasons, went as far as saying that Froome should not have even been on the start line  "Froome does not belong on that list," Hinault said, according to Belgian publication Het Laatste Nieuws. "He returned a positive test at the Vuelta and afterwards his B-sample proved positive, so he has used doping and he has to be suspended.

"He should never have been allowed to start in the Giro. Why do we have to wait so long for a verdict? Those two Italians who had the same thing [Alessandro Petacchi and Diego Ulissi -ed.] were suspended much faster. With what right does Froome get so much time to find an explanation? Is it because Sky has so much money?"

Froome is currently under investigation after an anti-doping test during the 2017 Vuelta a España, which he went on to win, showed him to have double the permitted levels of the asthma drug salbutamol in his urine. It remains for the British rider and his legal team must now prove that he did not exceed the allowed dosage in order to avoid a suspension. As salbutamol is a 'specified' substance on WADA's banned list, Froome is allowed to compete while the investigation is going on. Both Petacchi and Ulissi received immediate bans for elevated levels of salbutamol even though it took nine months for a verdict to be reached in Ulissi’s case.

Last week, UCI president David Lappartient told the emdia that he could not guarantee that Froome’s case would be resolved by the time the Tour de France begins in July. Also, could also not confirm whether or not the results that Froome earns during the time of the investigation will be removed if he is handed a suspension.

"This is all very sad," added Hinault. "Froome is not part of the legend of the sport, because what image does he give cycling? He may also start the Tour later."

"It’s a real scandal. This has to stop."