Book Review - The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
It's become an expected response in sports these days... someone tests positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), and immediately the denials start. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in cycling, where scandal after scandal has rocked the sport. The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle peels back the code of silence among riders, and tells the story of Hamilton's rise and fall in the racing world. Hamilton's decision to come clean with the truth about his use of PEDs, as well as to expose Lance Armstrong's role when it came to doping, makes for a well-written expose that rings all too true.
For me, there are a couple of reasons why I enjoyed this book (I actually finished it in a single day). First, Coyle did an excellent job in researching all the claims and statements made by Hamilton. Hamilton's story is backed up by others, as well as by testimony that has come out in various legal actions against Armstrong. Everything has the ring of truth to it, with no sense that there's a hidden agenda or vendetta. Yes, the picture he paints of Armstrong is not pretty, but it meshes with what others have said or alluded to. Armstrong ran the team, and was willing to do anything necessary to win, regardless of the cost.
The second thing that struck me during my reading is that the decision to start doping, and later to deny it in the face of all accusations, isn't an easy one for most riders to make. They know it's wrong, and it's something that most would prefer not do, all things being equal. But when racing is your life, and you know that you need that extra boost to compete at the top levels, it's not easy to say no and leave all your dreams behind. And when it all collapses, the pressure to maintain the lie and hold on to what you have is overwhelming. Hamilton's struggles make it easier to understand the "why" behind much of it. He doesn't offer up excuses or say "it's not my fault." This feels like an honest confession by someone who is tired of living a lie.
There are people who are convinced without a doubt that Armstrong never doped, and that all the accusations against him are made by people trying to tear him down. For those individuals, nothing in this book will convince them otherwise. But if you have an open mind and want to hear from someone who was part of it all, The Secret Race is a recommended read. It puts a human face on the struggles of athletes who have to make (and live with) choices that will likely come back to haunt them later on in life.
Obtained From: Library