Seven Deadly Sins: my pursuit of Lance Armstrong – David Walsh

I remember reading David Walsh’s early articles in The Sunday Times, at first with disbelief and then with a growing sense that there might be something in what Walsh was saying.  I’m not sure anyone was really surprised when the truth finally came out that Armstrong had been doping for years and had, essentially, bullied others into covering up what was happening in the sport.

This book is the story of David Walsh’s transition from Tour de France fan to cynical journalist to crusader trying to expose the corruption at the heart of the cycling fraternity.

Walsh tells not only of his own consignment to “troll” status within the TdF press pack but also of the terrible pressure and horrible stories spread about the Andreus, the LeMonds and Emma O’Reilly when they tried to expose the cheating going on in the US Postal team and by Armstrong particularly.  I am left with enormous admiration for Betsy Andreu for continuing to stand up against Lance Armstrong when he tried to destroy her and her husband for exposing him as a cheat.

The book isn’t just about the pursuit of Armstrong though.  It also tells the story of how doping affected the health of other cyclist.  One story that sticks in my memory is about a 21-year-old cyclist who damaged a leg during the Giro and needed an operation.  When they opened him up in the operating theatre they found his blood was thick sludge from the performance enhancing drugs he had been taking.  I find it shocking that people are prepared to do this to themselves.  Perhaps I’m naive or just not very competitive but I can’t believe that any race or sport is worth damaging your health to that extent.

It was good to read the book as it brings together all Walsh’s articles and research into one place to read at one time, rather than The Times articles that I read over a number of years.

It’s dispiriting though to find that Walsh feels the story of doping in cycling isn’t yet finished, especially on top of the recent allegations about Wiggins and Froome.

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