Chipping away at Lance Armstrong's bulletproof veneer

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Seven Deadly Sins takes the reader through the efforts of Walsh and others to show the truth of the Armstrong myth, to convince people that rather than being a cool, clean American hero winning through talent and dedication alone, Armstrong was cynically using his image as a cancer fighter to sidestep questions about his sophisticated doping.

Walsh writes about his discovery that Armstrong was using the services of the banned doctor Michele Ferrari, about the efforts by Armstrong’s agent Bill Stapleton to get Walsh onside with promises of greater access to the rider, about the legal action he and the Sunday Times faced over the publication of the book LA Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong. He also writes about the backdated prescription that helped Armstrong sidestep a positive doping test in 1999, plus the witnesses – such as the Andreus, the Irishwoman Emma O’Reilly and the triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond – who testified under oath about Armstrong during a 2006 court case.

Floyd Landis too played a crucial part, and Walsh takes the reader through Landis’s positive test at the 2006 Tour de France, the loss of that title and his eventual decision to give evidence against Armstrong and other former team-mates on the US Postal Service team.

That testimony was arguably the most crucial of all. Landis’s decision to speak out was the catalyst for federal agents to get other former Armstrong team-mates under oath, and, over time, a solid case was built. The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada)took over when the attorney general inexplicably dropped the federal case, and last August Armstrong was banned for life.

Seven Deadly Sins documents each of the steps along the way, noting each of the thousand tiny cuts that chipped away at Armstrong’s pedestal and his bulletproof veneer. By and large it’s very well written, although the push to get it out soon after cycling’s international governing body, UCI, validated Usada’s lifetime ban makes the final 50 pages feel somewhat rushed. Still, as an insight into what it was like to be on the bad side of the Texan cyclist, both Walsh’ s book and Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race make for fascinating reading.

As Betsy Andreu, Walsh, Hamilton, Landis and many others learned, Armstrong may not have called them fat, but, before his downfall, he certainly could make their lives very difficult indeed.

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