One undeniable fact about watching the Tour de France, in the Lance Armstrong years of 1999-2005 was that it was all pretty dull. There was never really any effective challenge to the blue train of the USPs. The only two attacks I can remember were Jan Ullrich temporarily gaining a minute on a climb (he still lost the tour nine minutes back) and good old Filipo Simeoni attacking on the Champs Elysees. That was pretty cool. But, away from the procession in the Tour, the real action was away from the bike race in the world of journalism and the pursuit of what was really going on behind closed doors.. Hollywood couldn’t make the script up. Heroes, underdogs, and plenty of lawyers and bad guys.
Seven Deadly Sins is a riveting read. It’s almost like a novel, a real page turner. It recounts the long journey of David Walsh in seeking to investigate the doping practises of Lance Armstrong. It is written from his point of view, and he readily admits, he developed an almost unhealthy obsession with his subject. But, it was this passion which encouraged him to keep going, when any more rational person, may have surrendered to the Armstrong legal team.
You think the story is going to come to an end and then there’s another twist. It just gets deeper and more incredible. I enjoyed the book a lot more than Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race because this book had a few inspiring characters – people willing to stick to their pursuit of truth – even if it was at a great personal cost. Hamilton’s book was depressing because it was pretty much full of cheats and bullies. Seven Deadly Sins has the full range of humanity. At times, the sense of injustice is uncomfortably strong. But, what makes it tolerable, is at least you know there’s going to be a ‘happy ending’ so to speak – or at least some kind of vindication for those who put their necks on the blocks.
I never read L.A. Confidential when it came out in 2004, I never really knew about Betsy Andeu, Stephen Swart and Emma O Reilly. But, I always resonated with what Greg Lemond said about Lance Armstrong working with Dr Ferrari. I never for a moment bought the idea a clean cyclist would go to a doping doctor. But, it’s still nice that closure has finally come.
You have to be grateful for those who were willing to help bring the truth to light. It would be nice if some of today’s modern day generation of cyclists – who tell us everything is clean now – at least recognised the good work done by some of these unpopular characters to create a cleaner sport.
The only bit of the book, I didn’t like is the long passage of Armstrong’s transcript from the 2005 SCA case. I couldn’t be bothered to read his testimony so I just skimmed over it.
It is obviously rushed out to capitalise on the unique interest in the USADA report and Lance Armstrong’s confession. But, if you want to understand the full story, this is a good place to start.
My favourite quote from the book is David Walsh. Asked in 2005, who he wanted to win the tour, Walsh replied ‘I really don’t care who wins. I only want to see the sport clean.’
- Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong at Amazon.co.uk