Tuesday, October 09, 2012
No Wizard of Oz on a Bike
As a result, I have taken off my Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelet, which has adorned my wrist continuously for the last seven years. I loved the Tour, admired Lance, wanted to believe his claims of innocence. I don't anymore. It was traumatic, believe me, but my bracelet had to come off after reading Tyler Hamilton's account of the sport-wide culture of doping in pro cycling.
Now Tyler didn't have a stellar reputation: after all, he was a doper himself who was caught lying and banned. But his powerful and forthright account of rider transfusions, testosterone and EPO use in the peleton during the late 90s and 2000s in Europe is both credible and depressing. "The Secret Race" is a game-changer book, backed up by others' testimony and the exhaustive research of his co-author Daniel Coyle.
Someone once said that cycling is like sausage: You love it, but you don't want to know how it's made. Well, you certainly know the manufacturing process after reading this book. Tyler Hamilton writes without arrogance or excuses, explaining why he doped (and lied) and why every top rider did the same thing. The only alternative to cheating, if you wanted to stay clean, was to finish at the back of the pack or retire. If a team had clever directors, the right doctors, and enough money to cover the logistics, its riders could stay ahead of the testers and the tests, or make payoffs to authorities to cover up transgressions.