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Monday, December 22, 2008

Lance Armstrong twitters on 'unreal' drug-testing and 'big as yo' face burritos'

By Telegraph staff

Lance Armstrong twitters on 'unreal' drug testing and 'big as yo face burritos'
Transparent: Lance Armstrong has been tested more than any other rider Photo: EPA

On his Twitter page - a social-networking website - Armstrong wrote: "Guess what!? Drug control #10. Unreal."

Many in France still cast a suspicious eye towards Armstrong and the success he achieved before retiring in 2005.

As such, the American is attempting to be as open as possible when it comes to his comeback preparations.

Upon his return, he said: "We're going to be completely transparent. This is for the world to see. I am returning with a completely comprehensive programme and there will be no way to cheat."

The authorities are clearly making sure of this.

Armstrong, though, is hiding nothing, as his postings on Twitter show. They include:

"Ate at Chuys. One of Austin's finest. Had a "big as 'yo face" burrito."

"Got a note from Levi. Was going to go out and train with him but didn't since my condition isn't half-bad now. It's freezing cold there too."

"Still freezing in Austin so training indoors at Kevin's Pedal Hard studio."

"Just saw Slumdog Millionaire. Amazing film. Run don't walk to see it."

"Morning - I'm up drinking coffee, reading the nyt, and texting with Johan who's at the Tour of Spain (Vuelta) presentation."

Former team-mate George Hincapie, however, perhaps seems less than impressed with the media's reaction to Armstrong's return. On his page, he notes: "Just did a USA Today interview. 95 per cent L(ance) A(rmstrong), 5 per cent me. He's back!!!!"

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Money woes hits world's richest football league

Neale Graham

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The falling value of the pound against the euro might be good for British exporters, but for the country's football clubs it's a kick in the teeth.

England boss Fabio Capello has taken a hit on his salary as the pound falls against the euro.

England boss Fabio Capello has taken a hit on his salary as the pound falls against the euro.

January's transfer window is eagerly awaited by fans and managers alike, seeking to add that bit of extra quality the last few months have shown their team to be missing.

In the past, buying from mainland Europe has proved cheaper than buying from within the British Isles, which goes some way to explaining why there are so many overseas players in the Premier League and the Scottish Premier League.

Now, though, clubs must deal with a pound worth somewhere a little over a euro -- in 2001 £1 ($1.4) was worth just shy of €1.8 ($1.5).

To put that in context, Manchester United paid Lazio £28.1m or €50.6m for Juan Sebastian Veron in the summer of 2001, roughly equivalent to $39m.

If the European champions bought the Argentine midfielder today it would cost them a world-record-threatening £45m ($63m).

Tottenham's purchases of Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russia striker, were both completed and announced to the London Stock Exchange in euros. Have your say on this issue

The transfer fees are being paid in installments, meaning the total amount the club pays for the duo fluctuates.

Right now the €21m ($29.3m) agreed with Dinamo Zagreb for Modric and the €17m ($23.8m) agreed with Spartak Moscow for Pavlyuchenko are getting more expensive by the day.

So could the economic downturn spell the end of the Premier League's reign as unofficial top dog?

"Obviously the falling value of the pounds is going to give English clubs food for thought in the transfer window, but also that also applies to the selling club in Europe too," said Dan Jones, partner in the sports business group of leading auditors Deloitte.

"It might just make English clubs look closer to home for their purchases. But as the history of the last few transfer windows suggests, I don't think they're about to be overtaken.

"The gap between clubs outside the elite in England and their European counterparts in terms of revenue is huge, so it's not going to be game-changing."

Manchester City's buyout in August by the cash-rich Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited gives the club a pronounced advantage when it comes to buying power, irrespective of the strength of the euro.

And Jones believes the transfer market in January hinges on what they decide to do.

He added: "The catalyst in the market will be Manchester City -- if they spend big and early in the window, then the knock-on effects would mean the market is reinvigorated.

"If they don't, then it will probably be quiet. I'm expecting January to be slow all round."

It's not just the clubs feeling the pinch.

The UK's Sun newspaper reported in November that England head coach Fabio Capello has lost the equivalent of £1m ($1.5m) on his salary due to the fall in the value of sterling.

His four-year contract, worth a reputed £6m ($9m), was signed last year and is paid in pounds. But because he does his banking in Italy he has lost around €1.2m ($1.7m) on the deal.

No Premier League club would confirm whether any of their players are paid in euros but there may be some. And if there are, they are laughing.

A salary paid in euros buys significantly more in the UK than it has done at any point since the currency's introduction in 1999 and would see the club shelling out higher wages for the same player in comparative terms.

So when the January transfer window opens, don't be surprised if your club is not as active as you were hoping they might be. That prolific Spanish striker the scouts have had their eye on might now be priced out of the market.

And the flip side to a weak pound makes shopping in England more attractive for European clubs. Expect more gossip linking Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, although whether the Spanish giants put their money where their mouth is remains to be seen.

Money's tight, even in the richest league in the world.

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Giants win NFC's top seed with win over Panthers

By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer

New York Giants running back Derrick Ward, right, is upended by Carolina AP – New York Giants running back Derrick Ward, right, is upended by Carolina Panthers cornerback Richard …

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The NFC road to the Super Bowl will run through the Meadowlands because the New York Giants did what they had to do against frigid, swirling wind — run the ball.

Derrick Ward ran for career-best 215 yards and set up Brandon Jacobs' winning 2-yard touchdown run with 9:57 left in overtime and the Super Bowl champion Giants clinched the NFC's top seed for the postseason with a thrilling 34-28 comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night.

Fans who braved the numbing wind chill tossed snowballs onto the field earlier and threw like confetti when Jacobs won the game.

New York (12-3) forced the overtime when Jacobs plowed into the end zone from a yard out, and Eli Manning hit Domenik Hixon on a slant pattern for the tying 2-point conversion with 3:21 to play.

Jacobs finished with three short touchdown runs, and Manning and Kevin Boss combined on a 4-yard touchdown pass as the Giants found the cold and wind to their liking in snapping a two-game losing streak.

New York clinched a first-round bye earlier in the day when Atlanta beat Minnesota, then added the icing on this frosty night by beating Carolina (11-4) in the winner-take-all game for the NFC's top seed.

The loss spoiled a record-tying, four-touchdown performance by Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who gave Carolina a 28-20 lead with a 30-yard TD run 2 minutes into the final quarter. He also scored on runs of 13, 5 and 1 yards.

The Panthers, who have qualified for the playoffs, can clinch the NFC South and the No. 2 seed with a win at New Orleans next weekend.

The Panthers had a chance to win the game in regulation but the swirling wind at Giants Stadium pushed John Kasey's 50-yard field-goal attempt wide left, sparking some more celebratory snow throwing by Giants fans.

The Giants won the coin toss in the overtime and couldn't generate anything, and the Panthers followed suit on their possession.

New York nearly lost the ball before its winning drive when R.W. McQuarters muffed a punt at the Giants 13. He emerged from a pile with the ball and then Ward took over.

On first-and-10 from the 13, Ward went 51 yards to Carolina 36. Three plays later on third-and-7, he went 14 yards to the 19 and followed that with a 17-yarder to the 2.

Jacobs scored on the next play, capping a night New York rushed for a season-high 301 yards.

Until the late heroics, Williams and the Panthers seemingly had overcame the non-Carolina elements and landed the homefield advantage, which was important since the Panthers were 8-0 at home.

New York finished 7-1 at home. The last time they were the No. 1 seed was the 2000 season and they went to the Super Bowl, losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

The Panthers scored touchdowns the first three times they had the ball with Williams tallying from 13, 5 and 1 yard in leading Carolina to a 21-10 lead. The last touchdown came a play after a Tom Coughlin challenge left Steve Smith a half-yard shy on a play that originally was ruled a TD.

Carolina had eight plays of 10 yards or more on the drives of 77, 66 and 65 yards, with five going for more than 15 yards. The biggest play was a 60-yard pass from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad on a pass that went right through the hands of Giants cornerback Aaron Ross.

The Giants' defense limited Carolina to seven second-half points.

John Carney got New York to with 21-13 with a 35-yard field goal late in the half, and New York closed to within 21-20 when Manning found a wide-open Boss for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds to go in third quarter.

It capped a 12-play, 84-yard marched that took more than eight minutes.

Carolina came right and restored the eight-point lead when Williams, who gained 108 yards on 24 carries, broke a tackle by Antonio Pierce and scampered 30 yards for a touchdown.

The Giants' tying touchdown was set up by great coffin-corner punt by Jeff Feagles, a 12-yard pass from Manning to Boss and a pass-interference call in the end zone against Ken Lucas, one play later.

Jacobs scored on the next play.

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Angels stop pursuing Teixeira

By Jerry Crasnick

Angels Withdraw Offer To Teixeira

The Los Angeles Angels withdrew their eight-year offer for free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira on Sunday, according to team vice president of communications Tim Mead.

The Angels' departure from the Teixeira sweepstakes leaves the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles as the four teams still in the mix for the premier position player in this winter's free-agent market.

In an e-mail to several media outlets, Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, said his client appreciated his time in Anaheim.

"Mark Teixeira enjoyed his time with the Angels and was an integral part of their success last season. His interest in returning to the club has been sincere, real and continues to be one of his earnest priorities throughout this offseason," Boras wrote.

"Clubs are very aware -- in particular the Angels -- [that] participation in the free agent process does not signal lack of interest in signing with the club. Case in point, the Angels signed two great free-agent players who engaged in the mechanism, receiving and exchanging offers with multiple clubs, while negotiating with the Angels. Therefore, we are assuming that reasons, other than Teixeira's interest in returning to the Angels, were the driving factor."

The two free agents Boras referred to in his e-mail were outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter.

Angels general manager Tony Reagins revealed before the winter meetings that the team had offered Teixeira an eight-year deal. The dollar figure was undetermined.

Mark Teixeira


It's uncertain where the Angels will turn next. The team had been mentioned as a candidate to sign another Boras client, Manny Ramirez, but after the Angels re-signed Juan Rivera to a three-year, $12.75 million deal this week, a source familiar with the team's plans characterized a Ramirez signing as a "reach" for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has been mentioned in speculation as a potential landing spot for free agents Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn and Brian Fuentes, among others. Fuentes is a potential replacement for record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez, who left the Angels to sign a three-year deal with the New York Mets. Los Angeles acquired Teixeira in a trade with Atlanta before the July 31 deadline last season. Teixeira batted .358 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games for the Angels. After Teixeira filed for free agency, the Angels had been considered at a competitive disadvantage because of Teixeira's purported desire to play on the East Coast. Teixeira is a native of Severna Park, Md. "I know he likes the East Coast,'' Hunter told reporters at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. "I talked to him on a plane this year and he loves the East Coast. But being in Anaheim this year, he saw it, he felt it. He played for the Angels, and he told me, 'This organization is A-1.' '' Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider.

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